This is something that I have heard/read so many different contradictory claims about over the years.

In high school I was taught that sperm cells have a lot of mitochondria because they need a lot of energy quickly. This made sense to my adolescent mind.

When I was an undergrad, my one microbiology lecturer swore up, down and sideways that they did not have mitochondria. She never gave any reason or evidence, but I had gotten used to the idea that high school info was often out of date and, sometimes, completely incorrect, so I let it slide.

Then I was reading an article for a paper several years back and it said that, not only did sperm cells have mitochondria, but they did not lose them all. That in fact, some were preserved and engaged in genetic recombination with the mitochondria belonging to the ovum (the maternal ones). This contradicts another rule that so many treat as certain, which is that while nuclear DNA is 50% from each parent, mitochondrial DNA is exclusively maternal.

To sum up: Do spermatozoa contain mitochondria or not? And if so, is the recombination I described above likely?

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    $\begingroup$ With all certainty yes, they do have mitochondria. What article are you referring to in the second to last paragraph? $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ I can't remember in the slightest, and I lost my copy with a crashed computer. It was an off-hand comment in a pretty mediocre article. What I was actually researching was a particular gene on the mitochondrial DNA, I was just struck by that statement and the question bothers me every so often. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia paternal mitochondrial DNA transmission $\endgroup$
    – Alan Boyd
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 7:02

1 Answer 1


The midpiece has a central filamentous core with many mitochondria spiralled around it, used for ATP production for the journey through the female cervix, uterus and uterine tubes. This is a good article explaining more about this topic: http://genetics.thetech.org/ask-a-geneticist/mtdna-comes-only-mom

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. That helped. Who would have thought that what I learned from a high school biology textbook published in the early '80's would be the right answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 6:32

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