The pathomechanisms underlying oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) diseases are not well-understood, but they involve maladaptive changes in mitochondria-nucleus communication. Many studies on the mitochondria-nucleus cross-talk triggered by mitochondrial dysfunction have focused on the role played by regulatory proteins, while the participation of miRNAs remains poorly explored. MELAS (mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes) is mostly caused by mutation m.3243A>G in mitochondrial tRNALeu(UUR) gene. Adverse cardiac and neurological events are the commonest causes of early death in m.3243A>G patients. Notably, the incidence of major clinical features associated with this mutation has been correlated to the level of m.3243A>G mutant mitochondrial DNA (heteroplasmy) in skeletal muscle. In this work, we used a transmitochondrial cybrid model of MELAS (100% m.3243A>G mutant mitochondrial DNA) to investigate the participation of miRNAs in the mitochondria-nucleus cross-talk associated with OXPHOS dysfunction. High-throughput analysis of small-RNA-Seq data indicated that expression of 246 miRNAs was significantly altered in MELAS cybrids. Validation of selected miRNAs, including miR-4775 and miR-218-5p, in patient muscle samples revealed miRNAs whose expression declined with high levels of mutant heteroplasmy. We show that miR-218-5p and miR-4775 are direct regulators of fetal cardiac genes such as NODAL, RHOA, ISL1 and RXRB, which are up-regulated in MELAS cybrids and in patient muscle samples with heteroplasmy above 60%. Our data clearly indicate that TGF-β superfamily signaling and an epithelial-mesenchymal transition-like program are activated in MELAS cybrids, and suggest that down-regulation of miRNAs regulating fetal cardiac genes is a risk marker of heart failure in patients with OXPHOS diseases.
Keywords: Heteroplasmy; Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; OXPHOS diseases; miR-218-5p; miR-4775.
Copyright © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.