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Hansong Ma

2018 Ma

Hansong Ma PhD, Wellcome Sir Henry Dale Fellow, member of the Department of Genetics.

Lab website | Europe PMC | PubMed 





Genetics of mitochondrial DNA in evolution and disease

How are mitochondrial mutations transmitted? In addition to the nuclear genome, all animals have another genome packed inside the mitochondrion called mtDNA. This maternally inherited genome encodes important proteins for energy production. Pathogenic mitochondrial mutations often arise among the thousands of copies of wild-type genomes in each cell, and beyond a certain threshold the genetic defects will manifest as a disease phenotype. Over 50 such mitochondrial diseases have been described in humans. 

Selectivity in the transmission of functional versus pathogenic genomes in somatic cells affects the expression of disease phenotype as we age. Selective transmission in germline cells governs the inheritance of mtDNA mutations from mother to progeny, and in this way its evolution.

I have developed genetic tools for mitochondrial studies in Drosophila, which have a mitochondrial genome that is very similar to humans. By artificially mixing different genomes and following their transmission over generations, my lab uses Drosophila to study inheritance of mtDNA mutations to provide insights into human longevity, fertility and disease.

Selected publications:

• Klucnika A, Ma H (2019) A battle for transmission: the cooperative and selfish animal mitochondrial genomes. Open Biology 9. DOI: 10.1098/rsob.180267.

• Ma H, O'Farrell PH (2016) Selfish drive can trump function when animal mitochondrial genomes compete. Nat Genet 48(7):798-802.

 • Ma H, O'Farrell PH (2015) Selections that isolate recombinant mitochondrial genomes in animals. Elife 4:e07247.

 • Ma H, Xu H, O'Farrell PH (2014) Transmission of mitochondrial mutations and action of purifying selection in Drosophila melanogaster. Nat Genet 46(4):393-397.

 • Voelz K et al. (2013) Transmission of Hypervirulence traits via sexual reproduction within and between lineages of the human fungal pathogen cryptococcus gattii. PLoS Genet 9(9):e1003771.

 • Ma H, Hagen F, Stekel DJ, Johnston SA, Sionov E, Falk R, Polacheck I, Boekhout T,  May RC (2009) The fatal fungal outbreak on Vancouver Island is characterized by enhanced intracellular parasitism driven by mitochondrial regulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106(31):12980-12985.

Ma group (Nov18 to Feb19)

Video: Meet Hansong Ma


Chieh-Yin (Ason) Chiang • Ivy Di • Jan Jezek • Anna Klucnika • Andy (Yu Zhi) Li • Eleanor McCartney • Ziyan Nie  Kathy Oswald • Zara Valliji Zhanhua Xing