Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Multiple copies of the mitochondrial genome in eukaryotic cells are organized into protein-DNA complexes called nucleoids. Mitochondrial genome repair mechanisms have been reported, but they are less well characterized than their nuclear counterparts. To expand our knowledge of mitochondrial genome maintenance, we have studied the localization of the BRCA1 protein, known to be involved in nuclear repair pathways. Our confocal and immunoelectron microscopy results show that BRCA1 is present in mitochondria of several human cancer cell lines and in primary breast and nasal epithelial cells. BRCA1 localization in mitochondria frequently overlapped that of nucleoids. Small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of BRCA1 in human cancer cells (confirmed by Western blot) results in decreased nuclear, cytoplasmic, and mitochondrial staining after immunofluorescence microscopy, establishing the specificity of the BRCA1 immunolabeling. Furthermore, using cell fractionation, dephosphorylation, and enzyme protection experiments, we show that a 220-kDa phosphorylated isoform of BRCA1 is enriched in mitochondrial and nuclear fractions but reduced in cytoplasmic subcellular fractions. Submitochondrial fractionation confirmed the presence of BRCA1 protein in isolated mitoplasts. Because phosphorylation of BRCA1 and subsequent changes in subcellular localization are known to follow DNA damage, our data support a universal role for BRCA1 in the maintenance of genome integrity in both mitochondria and nucleus.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Biol Cell

Publication Date





997 - 1010


Animals, BRCA1 Protein, Blotting, Western, Breast Neoplasms, Carcinoma, Cell Fractionation, Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Nucleus, Female, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect, HeLa Cells, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Liver, Microscopy, Confocal, Mitochondria, Phosphorylation, RNA, Small Interfering, Rats, Subcellular Fractions