Dolly Not a Complete Clone

ByABC News
January 12, 2001, 2:03 PM

N E W   Y O R K,   Sept. 7 -- A study confirms what scientists had always thought about Dolly the sheep: If you want to be really picky, you can say shes not completely identical genetically to the ewe she was cloned from.

No need to rewrite the textbooks: The finding doesnt change Dollys status as the first animal to be cloned from an adult mammal.

When most people think about genes, they think of the DNA in the nucleus of the cell. The genes there control a wide variety of characteristics like eye color. And for this DNA, Dolly is indeed a clone.

Differences in the Mitochondria

But cells contain a much smaller amount of DNA outside the nucleus, in features called mitochondria. The mitochondria are the power plants of cells, and their DNA called mtDNA controls their functioning.

This mtDNA accounts for about 1 percent of a typical cells DNA and a much smaller percentage of its genes.

Scientists always thought that Dollys mtDNA would differ from the mtDNA in the ewe she was cloned from. Dolly was cloned by fusing a body cell from the ewe to an egg that had its nucleus removed. A body cell has far less mtDNA than an egg does, so when they mixed, the vast majority of the result would be from the egg.

Ewe Not Even Involved

Now, scientists have inspected Dollys mtDNA and found no trace of the ewes contribution at all. Thats a surprise, and it suggests the egg destroyed the ewes mtDNA, said Eric Schon of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

He and colleagues present the results in the September issue of the journal Nature Genetics. Co-authors include Dolly cloner Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Scotland.

They got the same result with the mtDNA of nine sheep cloned from fetal cells.

Schon said the work has a big implication for attempts to study diseases caused by flaws in mtDNA. Only a small minority of genetic diseases are caused by such flaws, with far more stemming from defects in nucleus DNA.