Among terrestrial arthropods, the dragonfly species Pantala flavescens is remarkable due to their nearly global distribution and extensive migratory ranges; the largest of any known insect. Capable of migrating across oceans, the potential for high rates of gene flow among geographically distant populations is significant. It has been hypothesized that P. flavescens may be a global panmictic population but no sufficient genetic evidence has been collected thus far. Through a population genetic analysis of P. flavescens samples from North America, South America, and Asia, the current study aimed to examine the extent at which gene flow is occurring on a global scale and discusses the implications of the genetic patterns we uncovered on population structure and genetic diversity of the species. This was accomplished using PCR-amplified cytochrome oxidase one (CO1) mitochondrial DNA data to reconstruct phylogenetic trees, a haplotype network, and perform molecular variance analyses. Our results suggested high rates of gene flow are occurring among all included geographic regions; providing the first significant evidence that Pantala flavescens should be considered a global panmictic population.
Ancient DNA is revealing new insights into the genetic relationship between Pleistocene hominins and modern humans. Nuclear DNA indicated Neanderthals as a sister group of Denisovans after diverging from modern humans. However, the closer affinity of the Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to modern humans than Denisovans has recently been suggested as the result of gene flow from an African source into Neanderthals before 100,000 years ago. Here we report the complete mtDNA of an archaic femur from the Hohlenstein-Stadel (HST) cave in southwestern Germany. HST carries the deepest divergent mtDNA lineage that splits from other Neanderthals ∼270,000 years ago, providing a lower boundary for the time of the putative mtDNA introgression event. We demonstrate that a complete Neanderthal mtDNA replacement is feasible over this time interval even with minimal hominin introgression. The highly divergent HST branch is indicative of greater mtDNA diversity during the Middle Pleistocene than in later periods.
In endothermic species, heat released as a product of metabolism ensures stable internal temperature throughout the organism, despite varying environmental conditions. Mitochondria are major actors in this thermogenic process. Part of the energy released by the oxidation of respiratory substrates drives ATP synthesis and metabolite transport, but a substantial proportion is released as heat. Using a temperature-sensitive fluorescent probe targeted to mitochondria, we measured mitochondrial temperature in situ under different physiological conditions. At a constant external temperature of 38 °C, mitochondria were more than 10 °C warmer when the respiratory chain (RC) was fully functional, both in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells and primary skin fibroblasts. This differential was abolished in cells depleted of mitochondrial DNA or treated with respiratory inhibitors but preserved or enhanced by expressing thermogenic enzymes, such as the alternative oxidase or the uncoupling protein 1. The activity of various RC enzymes was maximal at or slightly above 50 °C. In view of their potential consequences, these observations need to be further validated and explored by independent methods. Our study prompts a critical re-examination of the literature on mitochondria.
Depressive disorders often run in families, which, in addition to the genetic component, may point to the microbiome as a causative agent. Here, we employed a combination of behavioral, molecular and computational techniques to test the role of the microbiota in mediating despair behavior. In chronically stressed mice displaying despair behavior, we found that the microbiota composition and the metabolic signature dramatically change. Specifically, we observed reduced Lactobacillus and increased circulating kynurenine levels as the most prominent changes in stressed mice. Restoring intestinal Lactobacillus levels was sufficient to improve the metabolic alterations and behavioral abnormalities. Mechanistically, we identified that Lactobacillus-derived reactive oxygen species may suppress host kynurenine metabolism, by inhibiting the expression of the metabolizing enzyme, IDO1, in the intestine. Moreover, maintaining elevated kynurenine levels during Lactobacillus supplementation diminished the treatment benefits. Collectively, our data provide a mechanistic scenario for how a microbiota player (Lactobacillus) may contribute to regulating metabolism and resilience during stress.
BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are relatively common neurodevelopmental conditions whose biological basis has been incompletely determined. Several biochemical markers have been associated with ASDs, but there is still no laboratory test for these conditions. METHODS: We analyzed the metabolic profile of lymphoblastoid cell lines from 137 patients with neurodevelopmental disorders with or without ASDs and 78 normal individuals, using Biolog Phenotype MicroArrays. RESULTS: Metabolic profiling of lymphoblastoid cells revealed that the 87 patients with ASD as a clinical feature, as compared to the 78 controls, exhibited on average reduced generation of NADH when tryptophan was the sole energy source. The results correlated with the behavioral traits associated with either syndromal or non-syndromal autism, independent of the genetic background of the individual. The low level of NADH generation in the presence of tryptophan was not observed in cell lines from non-ASD patients with intellectual disability, schizophrenia or conditions exhibiting several similarities with syndromal autism except for the behavioral traits. Analysis of a previous small gene expression study found abnormal levels for some genes involved in tryptophan metabolic pathways in 10 patients. CONCLUSIONS: Tryptophan is a precursor of important compounds, such as serotonin, quinolinic acid, and kynurenic acid, which are involved in neurodevelopment and synaptogenesis. In addition, quinolinic acid is the structural precursor of NAD+, a critical energy carrier in mitochondria. Also, the serotonin branch of the tryptophan metabolic pathway generates NADH. Lastly, the levels of quinolinic and kynurenic acid are strongly influenced by the activity of the immune system. Therefore, decreased tryptophan metabolism may alter brain development, neuroimmune activity and mitochondrial function. Our finding of decreased tryptophan metabolism appears to provide a unifying biochemical basis for ASDs and perhaps an initial step in the development of a diagnostic assay for ASDs.
Selective study of the electron transport chain components in living mitochondria is essential for fundamental biophysical research and for the development of new medical diagnostic methods. However, many important details of inter- and intramembrane mitochondrial processes have remained in shadow due to the lack of non-invasive techniques. Here we suggest a novel label-free approach based on the surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to monitor the redox state and conformation of cytochrome c in the electron transport chain in living mitochondria. We demonstrate that SERS spectra of living mitochondria placed on hierarchically structured silver-ring substrates provide exclusive information about cytochrome c behavior under modulation of inner mitochondrial membrane potential, proton gradient and the activity of ATP-synthetase. Mathematical simulation explains the observed enhancement of Raman scattering due to high concentration of electric near-field and large contact area between mitochondria and nanostructured surfaces.
Neuronal loss in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with aberrant mitochondrial function and impaired proteostasis. Identifying the mechanisms that link these pathologies is critical to furthering our understanding of PD pathogenesis. Using human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) that allow comparison of cells expressing mutant SNCA (encoding α-synuclein (α-syn)) with isogenic controls, or SNCA-transgenic mice, we show that SNCA-mutant neurons display fragmented mitochondria and accumulate α-syn deposits that cluster to mitochondrial membranes in response to exposure of cardiolipin on the mitochondrial surface. Whereas exposed cardiolipin specifically binds to and facilitates refolding of α-syn fibrils, prolonged cardiolipin exposure in SNCA-mutants initiates recruitment of LC3 to the mitochondria and mitophagy. Moreover, we find that co-culture of SNCA-mutant neurons with their isogenic controls results in transmission of α-syn pathology coincident with mitochondrial pathology in control neurons. Transmission of pathology is effectively blocked using an anti-α-syn monoclonal antibody (mAb), consistent with cell-to-cell seeding of α-syn.
Diabetes is a major global health issue and the number of individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) increases annually across multiple populations. Research to develop a cure must overcome multiple immune dysfunctions and the shortage of pancreatic islet β cells, but these challenges have proven intractable despite intensive research effort more than the past decades. Stem Cell Educator (SCE) therapy-which uses only autologous blood immune cells that are externally exposed to cord blood stem cells adhering to the SCE device, has previously been proven safe and effective in Chinese and Spanish subjects for the improvement of T1D, T2D, and other autoimmune diseases. Here, 4-year follow-up studies demonstrated the long-term safety and clinical efficacy of SCE therapy for the treatment of T1D and T2D. Mechanistic studies found that the nature of platelets was modulated in diabetic subjects after receiving SCE therapy. Platelets and their released mitochondria display immune tolerance-associated markers that can modulate the proliferation and function of immune cells. Notably, platelets also expressed embryonic stem cell- and pancreatic islet β-cell-associated markers that are encoded by mitochondrial DNA. Using freshly-isolated human pancreatic islets, ex vivo studies established that platelet-releasing mitochondria can migrate to pancreatic islets and be taken up by islet β cells, leading to the proliferation and enhancement of islet β-cell functions. These findings reveal new mechanisms underlying SCE therapy and open up new avenues to improve the treatment of diabetes in clinics. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2017.
Etiology of aberrant social behavior consistently points to a strong polygenetic component involved in fundamental developmental pathways, with the potential of being enhanced by defects in bioenergetics. To this end, the occurrence of social deficits and mitochondrial outcomes were evaluated in conditional Pten (Phosphatase and tensin homolog) haplo-insufficient mice, in which only one allele was selectively knocked-out in neural tissues. Pten mutations have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and syndromic autism spectrum disorders, among others. By 4-6 weeks of age, Pten insufficiency resulted in the increase of several mitochondrial Complex activities (II-III, IV and V) not accompanied by increases in mitochondrial mass, consistent with an activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway, of which Pten is a negative modulator. At 8-13 weeks of age, Pten haplo-insufficient mice did not show significant behavioral abnormalities or changes in mitochondrial outcomes, but by 20-29 weeks, they displayed aberrant social behavior (social avoidance, failure to recognize familiar mouse, and repetitive self-grooming), macrocephaly, increased oxidative stress, decreased cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) activity (50%) and increased mtDNA deletions in cerebellum and hippocampus. Mitochondrial dysfunction was the result of a downregulation of p53-signaling pathway evaluated by lower protein expression of p21 (65% of controls) and the CCO chaperone SCO2 (47% of controls), two p53-downstream targets. This mechanism was confirmed in Pten-deficient striatal neurons and, HCT 116 cells with different p53 gene dosage. These results suggest a unique pathogenic mechanism of the Pten-p53 axis in mice with aberrant social behavior: loss of Pten (via p53) impairs mitochondrial function elicited by an early defective assembly of CCO and later enhanced by the accumulation of mtDNA deletions. Consistent with our results, (i) SCO2 deficiency and/or CCO activity defects have been reported in patients with learning disabilities including autism and (ii) mutated proteins in ASD have been found associated with p53-signaling pathways.
MtDNA mutator mice exhibit marked features of premature aging. We find that these mice treated from age of ≈100 days with the mitochondria-targeted antioxidant SkQ1 showed a delayed appearance of traits of aging such as kyphosis, alopecia, lowering of body temperature, body weight loss, as well as ameliorated heart, kidney and liver pathologies. These effects of SkQ1 are suggested to be related to an alleviation of the effects of an enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) level in mtDNA mutator mice: the increased mitochondrial ROS released due to mitochondrial mutations probably interact with polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiolipin, releasing malondialdehyde and 4-hydroxynonenal that form protein adducts and thus diminishes mitochondrial functions. SkQ1 counteracts this as it scavenges mitochondrial ROS. As the results, the normal mitochondrial ultrastructure is preserved in liver and heart; the phosphorylation capacity of skeletal muscle mitochondria as well as the thermogenic capacity of brown adipose tissue is also improved. The SkQ1-treated mice live significantly longer (335 versus 290 days). These data may be relevant in relation to treatment of mitochondrial diseases particularly and the process of aging in general.