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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research

Volume 36, Issue 1, November 2017, Article number 168

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1186/s13046-017-0638-6. Copyright © Li et al.


BACKGROUND: Previous studies have indicated that tumor mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations are primarily shaped by relaxed negative selection, which is contradictory to the critical roles of mtDNA mutations in tumorigenesis. Therefore, we hypothesized that site-specific selection may influence tumor mtDNA mutations.

METHODS: To test our hypothesis, we developed the largest collection of tumor mtDNA mutations to date and evaluated how natural selection shaped mtDNA mutation patterns.

RESULTS: Our data demonstrated that both positive and negative selections acted on specific positions or functional units of tumor mtDNAs, although the landscape of these mutations was consistent with the relaxation of negative selection. In particular, mutation rate (mutation number in a region/region bp length) in complex V and tRNA coding regions, especially in ATP8 within complex V and in loop and variable regions within tRNA, were significantly lower than those in other regions. While the mutation rate of most codons and amino acids were consistent with the expectation under neutrality, several codons and amino acids had significantly different rates. Moreover, the mutations under selection were enriched for changes that are predicted to be deleterious, further supporting the evolutionary constraints on these regions.

CONCLUSION: These results indicate the existence of site-specific selection and imply the important role of the mtDNA mutations at some specific sites in tumor development.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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