The impact of mitochondrial DNA on human lifespan: A view from studies on centenarians

Stefano Salvioli, Miriam Capri, Aurelia Santoro, Nicola Raule, Federica Sevini, Stella Lukas, Catia Lanzarini, Daniela Monti, Giuseppe Passarino, Giuseppina Rose, Giovanna De Benedictis, Claudio Franceschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of inherited and somatic mutations of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in aging and longevity is complex and highly controversial, owing to its peculiar genetics, including the phenomenon of heteroplasmy. Most of the data on mtDNA and longevity have been obtained on humans and particularly on centenarians, i.e., people who escaped or delayed the major age-related pathologies and reached the extreme limit of human lifespan. In this review we summarize the most recent advances in this field that suggest a consistent role in human longevity of both germ-line inherited and somatically acquired mutations. The particular case of the association with longevity of the somatic C150T mutation is extensively discussed, challenging the tenet that mtDNA mutations are basically detrimental. We also stress several limitations of our present knowledge, regarding the difficulty in extrapolating to humans the results obtained in animal models, owing to a variety of biological differences, including the very limited genetic variability of mtDNA in the strains used in laboratory experiments. The use of high-throughput technologies and the extensive analysis, possibly at the single cell level, of different tissues and cell types derived from the same individual will help in disentangling the complexity of mtDNA in aging and longevity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-749
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Aging
  • Centenarians
  • Longevity
  • Mitochondrial DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine


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