The persistence of mtDNA to encode a small subset of mitochondrial proteins reflects the selective advantage of co-location of key respiratory chain subunit genes with their gene products. The disadvantage of this co-location is exposure of mtDNA to mutagenic ROS (reactive oxygen species), which are by-products of aerobic respiration. The resulting ‘vicious circle’ of mitochondrial mutation has been proposed to underlie aging and its associated degenerative diseases. Recent evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that oocyte mitochondria escape the aging process by acting as quiescent genetic templates, transcriptionally and bioenergetically repressed. Transmission of unexpressed mtDNA in the female germline is considered as a reason for the existence of separate sexes, i.e. male and female. Maternal inheritance then circumvents incremental accumulation of age-related disease in each new generation.

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