Background: As stem cells of the early embryo mature and differentiate into all tissues, the mitochondrial complement undergoes dramatic functional improvement. Mitochondrial activity is low to minimize generation of DNA-damaging reactive oxygen species during pre-implantation development and increases following implantation and differentiation to meet higher metabolic demands. It has recently been reported that when the stem cell type known as induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) are re-differentiated for several weeks in vitro, the mitochondrial complement progressively re-acquires properties approximating input fibroblasts, suggesting that despite the observation that IPSC conversion "resets" some parameters of cellular aging such as telomere length, it may have little impact on other age-affected cellular systems such as mitochondria in IPSC-derived cells.
Methodology/principal findings: We have examined the properties of mitochondria in two fibroblast lines, corresponding IPSCs, and fibroblasts re-derived from IPSCs using biochemical methods and electron microscopy, and found a dramatic improvement in the quality and function of the mitochondrial complement of the re-derived fibroblasts compared to input fibroblasts. This observation likely stems from two aspects of our experimental design: 1) that the input cell lines used were of advanced cellular age and contained an inefficient mitochondrial complement, and 2) the re-derived fibroblasts were produced using an extensive differentiation regimen that may more closely mimic the degree of growth and maturation found in a developing mammal.
Conclusions/significance: These results - coupled with earlier data from our laboratory - suggest that IPSC conversion not only resets the "biological clock", but can also rejuvenate the energetic capacity of derived cells.