, Volume 158, Issue 3, pp 251-261

Vegetative segregation of mitochondria in yeast: Estimating parameters using a random model

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Yeast zygotes which are heteroplasmic for mitochondrial genes reproduce vegetatively to form clones of diploid progeny which are homoplasmic. This vegetative segregation of mitochondrial genes has been interpreted in terms of a random distribution of mitochondria or mitochondrial genomes between mother and bud at cell division. We have developed equations which permit calculation of the number of segregating units in the zygote and the number of those units which enter the bud, assuming that segregation of the units is genetically random and numerically variable or equal. Use of the equations requires data from partial pedigree analyses: we isolate zygotes, separate the first bud, then determine the frequency of mitochondrial alleles among the progeny of mother cells whose first buds were homoplasmic. Application of this method to data from five crosses suggests that most zygotes have a small number of segregating units (usually less than a dozen) and only one or two enter the first bud. Analysis of the frequency of buds which are nearly but not quite homoplasmic indicates that the segregating units may be mitochondria or portions thereof which include many mitochondrial genomes, all the genomes in a unit being genetically identical in most but not all cases. These results are compatible with, but do not prove, the hypothesis of random vegetative segregation of mitochondria.