A novel system for assigning the mode of inheritance in mitochondrial disorders using cybrids and rhodamine 6G

Hum Mol Genet. 1999 Sep;8(9):1691-7. doi: 10.1093/hmg/8.9.1691.


When normal human cultured skin fibroblasts were treated with the fluorescent dye rhodamine 6G (R6G), there was a drastic reduction in numbers of intact mitochondria and electron transport chain enzyme activities, despite the fact that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was still present in treated cells. We used this observation to develop a novel system for generating cybrids. When cultured skin fibroblast cells from a patient with the mitochondrial encephalopathy and ragged-red fibers (MERRF) syndrome harboring the A8344G mtDNA mutation and which showed a severe reduction in cytochrome c oxidase activity were treated with R6G and fused to enucleated HeLaCOT cells, the resulting cybrid clones showed recovery of cytochrome c oxidase activity, and were shown to have mtDNA derived solely from the HeLaCOT cell line. R6G has significant advantages over ethidium bromide in removing the mitochondrial elements from cultured cells, and the results reported here demonstrate that this strategy can be used to determine the origin of the genetic defect in patients with electron transport chain abnormalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chloramphenicol / pharmacology
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Electron Transport / drug effects
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism*
  • Emetine / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / enzymology
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Hybrid Cells
  • MERRF Syndrome / enzymology
  • MERRF Syndrome / genetics
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathies / enzymology
  • Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathies / genetics*
  • Rhodamines / pharmacology
  • Skin / enzymology


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Rhodamines
  • rhodamine 6G
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Electron Transport Complex IV
  • Emetine