The Cost of Being Male

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Science  13 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6031, pp. 798-799
DOI: 10.1126/science.1206352

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Although we often hear of “the human genome,” human cells, like all other eukaryotic cells, actually contain two genomes. The nuclear genome, which garners most of the attention, is composed of the chromosomal DNA within the nucleus and encodes tens of thousands of proteins. The mitochondrial genome, which is present in the organelles that serve as the major site of energy production in the cell's cytoplasm, consists of a circular piece of DNA that encodes fewer than 20 proteins. The two genomes must function together for the cell to survive. However, because the two genomes differ in their mode of inheritance, their interaction may not be completely harmonious. On page 845 of this issue, Innocenti et al. (1) report experimental findings from the fruit fly demonstrating a sex-specific breakdown of the cooperation between the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. In this case, it is the males who get the short end of the stick.

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