Mitrochondria are elements that reside within the cells. They process food and convert the energy from it into a form acceptable to cells to use. Mitochondria have their own DNA though in a small amount while most DNA is cocooned in chromosomes within the nucleus. Such genetic materials like mitochondria with their own DNA are known as mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA.
About 16,500 DNA building blocks or base pairs are covered by mitochondrial DNA in humans. This represents a mere fraction of the total DNA contained in cells.
There are 37 genes in Mitochondrial DNA and all of them are necessary for the normal functioning. Of these 37 genes, 13 furnish instructions for making oxidative phosphorylation. Oxidative phosphorylation is a process to produce adenosine triphosphate or ATP. In doing so, simple sugars and oxygen is utilized. Adenosine triphosphate is the cell’s main source of energy. The other 24 genes furnish instructions for producing transfer RNA and ribosomal RNA which are molecules sometimes called chemical cousins of DNA. Such types of RNA assist in assembling protein building blocks and making them into functioning proteins.
The human genome is estimated to contain between 20,000 and 25,000 genes of which mitochondrial genes form a part.
Changes in particular mitochondrial genes result in many genetic conditions. Inherited changes are the cause of problems with growth, the function of the body’s systems and the body’s development. These mutations interfere with the ability of mitochondria to efficiently convert energy for the cell.
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