Tales from the crypt

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Intestinal colonic crypts are derived from a stem cell population located at the base of each crypt. A new analysis of mitochondrial function and of the rates of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutation in individual crypts shows that mtDNA mutations arise in stem cells - and at a surprisingly high frequency (see the related article beginning on page 1351). Because crypts turn over extremely rapidly (about once per week), somatic mtDNA mutations can "take over the system" and even become homoplasmic, in a manner similar to what has been shown to occur in tumors.

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