Mitochondrial dysfunction in hereditary optic neuropathies

Casalena, Gabriella Assunta (2009) Mitochondrial dysfunction in hereditary optic neuropathies, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Biochimica, 21 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/1557.
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MITOCHONDRIAL DYSFUNCTION IN HEREDITARY OPTIC NEUROPATHIES Mitochondrial pathologies are a heterogeneous group of clinical manifestations characterized by oxidative phosphorylation impairment. At the beginning of their recognition mitochondrial pathologies were regarded as rare disorders but indeed they are more frequent than originally thought. Due to the unique mitochondria peculiarities mitochondrial pathologies can be caused by mutations in both mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. The poor knowledge of pathologic mechanism of these disorders has not allowed a real development of the “mitochondrial medicine”, that is currently limited to symptoms mitigation. Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) was the first pathology to be linked to a point mutation in the mtDNA. The mechanism by which point mutations in mitochondrial gene encoding Complex I subunits leads to optic nerve degeneration is still unknown, although is well accepted that other genetic or environmental factors are involved in the modulation of pathology, where a pivotal role is certainly played by oxidative stress. We studied the relationship between the Ala16Val dimorphism in the mitochondrial targeting sequence of nuclear gene SOD2 and the 3460/ND1 LHON mutation. Our results show that, in control population, the heterozygous SOD2 genotype is associated to a higher activity and quantity of MnSOD, particularly with respect to Val homozygotes. Furthermore, we demonstrated that LHON patients harboring at least one Ala allele are characterized by an increased MnSOD activity with respect to relative control population. Since the ATP synthesis rate – severely reduced in LHON patients lymphocytes - is not affected by the SOD2 genotype, we concluded that SOD2 gene could modulate the pathogenicity of LHON mutations through a mechanism associated to an increase of reactive oxygen species production. Autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA) is a pathology linked to mutations in nuclear gene encoding Opa1, a dynamin-related protein localized in the mitochondrial matrix. Although the clinical course is slightly different, the endpoint of ADOA is exactly the same of LHON: optic nerve degeneration with specific involvement of retinal ganglion cells. Opa1 is a relatively new protein, whose major role is the regulation of mitochondrial fusion. Mitochondrial morphology is the results of the equilibrium between two opposite force: fusion and fission, two processes that have to be finely regulated in order to preserve mitochondrial and cellular physiology. We studied fibroblasts deriving from ADOA patients characterized by a new deletion in the GTPase domain of the OPA1 gene. The biochemical characterization of ADOA and control fibroblasts has concerned the evaluation of ATP synthesis rate, mitochondrial membrane potential in different metabolic conditions and the morphological status of mitochondria. Regarding ATP synthesis rate we did not find significant differences between ADOA and control fibroblasts even though a trend toward increased reduction in ADOA samples is observed when fibroblasts are grown in absence of glucose or in the medium containing gramicidin. Furthermore, we found that also in ADOA fibroblasts membrane potential is actively maintained by proton pumping of fully functional respiratory chain complexes. Our results indicate that the mutation found in the pedigree analyzed acts primary impairing the mitochondrial fusion without affecting the energy production, supporting the notion that cell function is tightly linked to mitochondrial morphology. Mitochondrial dysfunctions are acquiring great attention because of their recognized relevance not only in aging but also in age-related pathologies including cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders. The involvement of mitochondria in such detrimental pathologies that, currently, have become so common enhances the necessity of standardization of therapeutic strategies capable of rescuing the normal mitochondrial function. In order to propose an alternative treatment for energy deficiency-disorders we tested the effect of substrates capable to stimulate the substrate-level phosphorylation on viability and energy availability in different experimental models grown under different metabolic conditions. In fibroblasts, the energy defect was achieved by culturing cells in presence of oligomycin, an inhibitor of ATP synthase complex. NARP cybrids have been used as model of mitochondrial pathology. Cell viability and ATP content have been considered as parameters to assay the capability of exogenous substrate to rescue energy failure. Our results suggest that patients suffering for some forms of ATP synthase deficiency, or characterized by a deficiency in energy production, might benefit from dietary or pharmacological treatment based on supplementation of α-ketoglutarate and aspartate.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Casalena, Gabriella Assunta
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze biologiche, biomediche e biotecnologiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
LHON ADOA Mitochondrial pathologies
Data di discussione
23 Aprile 2009

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