What is mtDNA, and What Impact Does it Have on Genetic Research?

Eager to learn more about your family after seeing relatives this holiday season? DNA testing can help.

Before you get tested, though, it’s good to know more about DNA. Last week, we went over Y-DNA and its uses in DNA testing.

Now, we are exploring mtDNA, and how it can be used to further your genetic research.

mtDNA Testing & Its Uses in Genetic Research

What is mtDNA?Maternal Line

Most of the genetic information we inherit from our parents is contained in the 46 chromosomes occupying the nuclei of practically all cells in our bodies.

But outside of the nucleus, there’s another part of the cell that has some genetic information: the mitochondria, teeny structures that produce cellular energy. Each cell has around 1700 mitochondria — and each mitochondria contains identical DNA loops that are 16,000 base pairs long with 37 genes. This DNA is called mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA.

Whereas Y-DNA is inherited by boys from their fathers, mtDNA is inherited along the maternal line whenever an egg is fertilized. Essentially, at fertilization, the sperm cell’s mtDNA remains outside of the egg cell. This means that while the egg has a combination of the paternal and maternal nuclear DNA, it only has an exact replica of the mother’s mtDNA and none of the father’s.

mtDNA Testing

Although the human race’s mtDNA comes from one very distant female ancestor, nicknamed “Eve,” over the millennia random mutations have changed the genetic information. With mtDNA testing, we can find and trace these mutations, then compare the differences and similarities in mtDNA to determine where mutations occurred and when family trees branched off. This can help you learn more about where your ancestors were once settled, how your family expanded, and more.

Lee’s Summit DNA Testing

Test Smartly Labs of Lee’s Summit can help you dig more deeply into your ancestry research. Use our quick, painless DNA testing to learn more about your family history. To get started, call us at (816) 875-9301 or walk in today!

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