We introduce a general test of the bioenergetic importance of mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) variants: modular kinetic analysis of oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria from cybrid cells with constant nuclear DNA but different mtDNA. We have applied this test to the hypothesis [Ruiz-Pesini, Mishmar, Brandon, Procaccio and Wallace (2004) Science 303, 223–226] that particular mtDNA haplogroups (specific combinations of polymorphisms) that cause lowered coupling efficiency, leading to generation of less ATP and more heat, were positively selected during radiations of modern humans into colder climates. Contrary to the predictions of this hypothesis, mitochondria from Arctic haplogroups had similar or even greater coupling efficiency than mitochondria from tropical haplogroups.

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