Gene expression patterns of oxidative phosphorylation complex I subunits are organized in clusters

Yael Garbian, Ofer Ovadia, Sarah Dadon, Dan Mishmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


After the radiation of eukaryotes, the NUO operon, controlling the transcription of the NADH dehydrogenase complex of the oxidative phosphorylation system (OXPHOS complex I), was broken down and genes encoding this protein complex were dispersed across the nuclear genome. Seven genes, however, were retained in the genome of the mitochondrion, the ancient symbiote of eukaryotes. This division, in combination with the three-fold increase in subunit number from bacteria (N =∼14) to man (N = 45), renders the transcription regulation of OXPHOS complex I a challenge. Recently bioinformatics analysis of the promoter regions of all OXPHOS genes in mammals supported patterns of co-regulation, suggesting that natural selection favored a mechanism facilitating the transcriptional regulatory control of genes encoding subunits of these large protein complexes. Here, using real time PCR of mitochondrial (mtDNA)- and nuclear DNA (nDNA)-encoded transcripts in a panel of 13 different human tissues, we show that the expression pattern of OXPHOS complex I genes is regulated in several clusters. Firstly, all mtDNA-encoded complex I subunits (N = 7) share a similar expression pattern, distinct from all tested nDNA-encoded subunits (N = 10). Secondly, two sub-clusters of nDNA-encoded transcripts with significantly different expression patterns were observed. Thirdly, the expression patterns of two nDNA-encoded genes, NDUFA4 and NDUFA5, notably diverged from the rest of the nDNA-encoded subunits, suggesting a certain degree of tissue specificity. Finally, the expression pattern of the mtDNA-encoded ND4L gene diverged from the rest of the tested mtDNA-encoded transcripts that are regulated by the same promoter, consistent with post-transcriptional regulation. These findings suggest, for the first time, that the regulation of complex I subunits expression in humans is complex rather than reflecting global co-regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9985
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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