mRNA Reprogramming of T8993G Leigh's Syndrome Fibroblast Cells to Create Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Models for Mitochondrial Disorders

Stem Cells Dev. 2019 Jul 1;28(13):846-859. doi: 10.1089/scd.2019.0045. Epub 2019 May 20.


Early molecular and developmental events impacting many incurable mitochondrial disorders are not fully understood and require generation of relevant patient- and disease-specific stem cell models. In this study, we focus on the ability of a nonviral and integration-free reprogramming method for deriving clinical-grade induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) specific to Leigh's syndrome (LS), a fatal neurodegenerative mitochondrial disorder of infants. The cause of fatality could be due to the presence of high abundance of mutant mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) or decline in respiration levels, thus affecting early molecular and developmental events in energy-intensive tissues. LS patient fibroblasts (designated LS1 in this study), carrying a high percentage of mutant T8993G mtDNA, were reprogrammed using a combined mRNA-miRNA nonviral approach to generate human iPSCs (hiPSCs). The LS1-hiPSCs were evaluated for their self-renewal, embryoid body (EB) formation, and differentiation potential, using immunocytochemistry and gene expression profiling methods. Sanger sequencing and next-generation sequencing approaches were used to detect the mutation and quantify the percentage of mutant mtDNA in the LS1-hiPSCs and differentiated derivatives. Reprogrammed LS-hiPSCs expressed pluripotent stem cell markers including transcription factors OCT4, NANOG, and SOX2 and cell surface markers SSEA4, TRA-1-60, and TRA-1-81 at the RNA and protein level. LS1-hiPSCs also demonstrated the capacity for self-renewal and multilineage differentiation into all three embryonic germ layers. EB analysis demonstrated impaired differentiation potential in cells carrying high percentage of mutant mtDNA. Next-generation sequencing analysis confirmed the presence of high abundance of T8993G mutant mtDNA in the patient fibroblasts and their reprogrammed and differentiated derivatives. These results represent for the first time the derivation and characterization of a stable nonviral hiPSC line reprogrammed from a LS patient fibroblast carrying a high abundance of mutant mtDNA. These outcomes are important steps toward understanding disease origins and developing personalized therapies for patients suffering from mitochondrial diseases.

Keywords: Leigh's syndrome; differentiation; heteroplasmy; hiPSC; mitochondrial disease; pluripotent stem cell; reprogramming.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Self Renewal
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Reprogramming Techniques / methods*
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Leigh Disease / genetics
  • Leigh Disease / metabolism*
  • Leigh Disease / pathology
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors