Presence and transmission of mitochondrial heteroplasmic mutations in human populations of European and African ancestry

NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine TOPMed Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We investigated the concordance of mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmic mutations (heteroplasmies) in 6745 maternal pairs of European (EA, n = 4718 pairs) and African (AA, n = 2027 pairs) Americans in whole blood. Mother-offspring pairs displayed the highest concordance rate, followed by sibling-sibling and more distantly-related maternal pairs. The allele fractions of concordant heteroplasmies exhibited high correlation (R2 = 0.8) between paired individuals. Discordant heteroplasmies were more likely to be in coding regions, be nonsynonymous or nonsynonymous-deleterious (p < 0.001). The number of deleterious heteroplasmies was significantly correlated with advancing age (20–44, 45–64, and ≥65 years, p-trend = 0.01). One standard deviation increase in heteroplasmic burden (i.e., the number of heteroplasmies carried by an individual) was associated with 0.17 to 0.26 (p < 1e − 23) standard deviation decrease in mtDNA copy number, independent of age. White blood cell count and differential count jointly explained 0.5% to 1.3% (p ≤ 0.001) variance in heteroplasmic burden. A genome-wide association and meta-analysis identified a region at 11p11.12 (top signal rs779031139, p = 2.0e − 18, minor allele frequency = 0.38) associated with the heteroplasmic burden. However, the 11p11.12 region is adjacent to a nuclear mitochondrial DNA (NUMT) corresponding to a 542 bp area of the D-loop. This region was no longer significant after excluding heteroplasmies within the 542 bp from the heteroplasmic burden. The discovery that blood mtDNA heteroplasmies were both inherited and somatic origins and that an increase in heteroplasmic burden was strongly associated with a decrease in average number of mtDNA copy number in blood are important findings to be considered in association studies of mtDNA with disease traits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Heteroplasmy
  • Inheritance
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Somatic mutation
  • Transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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