Human mitochondrial disease-like symptoms caused by a reduced tRNA aminoacylation activity in flies

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Abstract

The translation of genes encoded in the mitochondrial genome requires specific machinery that functions in the organelle. Among the many mutations linked to human disease that affect mitochondrial translation, several are localized to nuclear genes coding for mitochondrial aminoacyl-transfer RNA synthetases. The molecular significance of these mutations is poorly understood, but it is expected to be similar to that of the mutations affecting mitochondrial transfer RNAs. To better understand the molecular features of diseases caused by these mutations, and to improve their diagnosis and therapeutics, we have constructed aDrosophila melanogastermodel disrupting the mitochondrial seryl-tRNA synthetase by RNA interference. At the molecular level, the knockdown generates a reduction in transfer RNA serylation, which correlates with the severity of the phenotype observed. The silencing compromises viability, longevity, motility and tissue development. At the cellular level, the knockdown alters mitochondrial morphology, biogenesis and function, and induces lactic acidosis and reactive oxygen species accumulation. We report that administration of antioxidant compounds has a palliative effect of some of these phenotypes. In conclusion, the fly model generated in this work reproduces typical characteristics of pathologies caused by mutations in the mitochondrial aminoacylation system, and can be useful to assess therapeutic approaches.

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