The effects of ethidium bromide induced loss of mitochondrial DNA on mitochondrial phenotype and ultrastructure in a human leukemia T-cell line (MOLT-4 cells)

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Mitochondrial DNA-deficient (ρ0) cells were generated following a 26-day incubation of MOLT-4 lymphoblastoid T cells in ethidium bromide (3,8-diamino-5-ethyl-6-phenylphenanthridinium bromide). The absence of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the resultant MOLT-4 ρ0 cells was confirmed by Southern analysis and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). MOLT-4 ρ0 cells proliferated more slowly than parental cells (wild type) and produced significantly more lactate (approximately fourfold increase; P < 0.001) with concomitantly reduced oxygen consumption (12.3% vs. 100%; P < 0.001) compared with the wild type. MOLT-4 ρ0 cells also showed reduced cytochrome c oxidase activity and a reduced cytochrome c oxidase/citrate synthase activity ratio compared to parental wild-type MOLT-4 cells (P < 10−11). Electron microscopy showed elongated mitochondria with parallel cristae in MOLT-4 cells although the mitochondria in MOLT-4 ρ0 cells appeared enlarged, some were vacuolated with either an absent or a grossly distorted cristae pattern. Vital staining with 5,5′,6,6′-tetrachloro-1,1′,3,3′-tetraethylbenzimidazolyl-carbocyanine iodide (JC-1) was used to image mitochondria in intact cells and study mitochondrial transmembrane potential (Δψm). Flow cytometry using JC-1 indicated that MOLT-4 ρ0 had a lower Δψm than MOLT-4. Sodium fluoride (an inhibitor of the glycolytic pathway) at a concentration of 20 mM further reduced the Δψm in MOLT-4-ρ0 cells. This data suggested that a glycolytic pathway product, possibly ATP, was required for the maintenance of Δψm in MOLT-4 ρ0 cells.

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