A Natural mtDNA Polymorphism in Complex III Is a Modifier of Healthspan in Mice

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 May 13;20(9):2359. doi: 10.3390/ijms20092359.


In this study, we provide experimental evidence that a maternally inherited polymorphism in the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (mt-Cytb; m.15124A>G, Ile-Val) in mitochondrial complex III resulted in middle-aged obesity and higher susceptibility to diet-induced obesity, as well as age-related inflammatory disease, e.g., ulcerative dermatitis, in mice. As a consequence of the gene variation, we observed alterations in body composition, metabolism and mitochondrial functions, i.e., increased mitochondrial oxygen consumption rate and higher levels of reactive oxygen species, as well as in the commensal bacterial composition in the gut, with higher abundance of Proteobacteria in mice carrying the variant. These observations are in line with the previously described links of the mitochondrial complex III gene with obesity and metabolic diseases in humans. Given that these functional changes by the G variant at m.15124 in the mt-Cytb are already present in young mice that were kept under normal condition, it is plausible that the m.15124A>G variant is a disease susceptibility modifier to the diseases induced by additional stressors, i.e., dietary and/or aging stress, and that the variant results in the higher incidence of clinical diseases presentation in C57BL/6J-mt129S1/SvlmJ than C57BL/6J mice. Thus, mtDNA variants could be potential biomarkers to evaluate the healthspan.

Keywords: age-related diseases; complex III; conplastic mouse strains; gut microbiota; healthspan; middle-aged obesity; mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms; mitochondrially encoded cytochrome b gene; mt-Cytb.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteroidetes / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Reactive Oxygen Species