Production of transmitochondrial cybrids containing naturally occurring pathogenic mtDNA variants

Nucleic Acids Res. 2006 Aug 2;34(13):e95. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkl516.


The human mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) encodes polypeptides that are critical for coupling oxidative phosphorylation. Our detailed understanding of the molecular processes that mediate mitochondrial gene expression and the structure-function relationships of the OXPHOS components could be greatly improved if we were able to transfect mitochondria and manipulate mtDNA in vivo. Increasing our knowledge of this process is not merely of fundamental importance, as mutations of the mitochondrial genome are known to cause a spectrum of clinical disorders and have been implicated in more common neurodegenerative disease and the ageing process. In organellar or in vitro reconstitution studies have identified many factors central to the mechanisms of mitochondrial gene expression, but being able to investigate the molecular aetiology of a limited number of cell lines from patients harbouring mutated mtDNA has been enormously beneficial. In the absence of a mechanism for manipulating mtDNA, a much larger pool of pathogenic mtDNA mutations would increase our knowledge of mitochondrial gene expression. Colonic crypts from ageing individuals harbour mutated mtDNA. Here we show that by generating cytoplasts from colonocytes, standard fusion techniques can be used to transfer mtDNA into rapidly dividing immortalized cells and, thereby, respiratory-deficient transmitochondrial cybrids can be isolated. A simple screen identified clones that carried putative pathogenic mutations in MTRNR1, MTRNR2, MTCOI and MTND2, MTND4 and MTND6. This method can therefore be exploited to produce a library of cell lines carrying pathogenic human mtDNA for further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Fusion
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Respiration
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Clone Cells*
  • Colon / cytology
  • Cytochrome-c Oxidase Deficiency / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / analysis
  • Mutation*
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Mitochondrial Proteins