Tissue-specific modulation of mitochondrial DNA segregation by a defect in mitochondrial division

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Abstract

Mitochondria are dynamic organelles that divide and fuse by remodeling an outer and inner membrane in response to developmental, physiological and stress stimuli. These events are coordinated by conserved dynamin-related GTPases. The dynamics of mitochondrial morphology require coordination with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to ensure faithful genome transmission, however, this process remains poorly understood. Mitochondrial division is linked to the segregation of mtDNA but how it affects cases of mtDNA heteroplasmy, where two or more mtDNA variants/mutations co-exist in a cell, is unknown. Segregation of heteroplasmic human pathogenic mtDNA mutations is a critical factor in the onset and severity of human mitochondrial diseases. Here, we investigated the coupling of mitochondrial morphology to the transmission and segregation of mtDNA in mammals by taking advantage of two genetically modified mouse models: one with a dominant-negative mutation in the dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1 or Dnm1l) that impairs mitochondrial fission and the other, heteroplasmic mice segregating two neutral mtDNA haplotypes (BALB and NZB). We show a tissue-specific response to mtDNA segregation from a defect in mitochondrial fission. Only mtDNA segregation in the hematopoietic compartment is modulated from impaired Dnm1l function. In contrast, no effect was observed in other tissues arising from the three germ layers during development and in mtDNA transmission through the female germline. Our data suggest a robust organization of a heteroplasmic mtDNA segregating unit across mammalian cell types that can overcome impaired mitochondrial division to ensure faithful transmission of the mitochondrial genome.

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