The majority of cellular energy is produced by the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system. Failure of the first OXPHOS enzyme complex, NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase or complex I (CI), is associated with multiple signs and symptoms presenting at variable ages of onset. There is no approved drug treatment yet to slow or reverse the progression of CI-deficient disorders. Here, we present a comprehensive human metabolic network model of genetically characterized CI-deficient patient-derived fibroblasts. Model calculations predicted that increased cholesterol production, export, and utilization can counterbalance the surplus of reducing equivalents in patient-derived fibroblasts, as these pathways consume considerable amounts of NAD(P)H. We show that fibrates attenuated increased NAD(P)H levels and improved CI-deficient fibroblast growth by stimulating the production of cholesterol via enhancement of its cellular efflux. In CI-deficient (Ndufs4-/-) mice, fibrate treatment resulted in prolonged survival and improved motor function, which was accompanied by an increased cholesterol efflux from peritoneal macrophages. Our results shine a new light on the use of compensatory biological pathways in mitochondrial dysfunction, which may lead to novel therapeutic interventions for mitochondrial diseases for which currently no cure exists.
Keywords: Cholesterol biosynthesis; Complex I deficiency; Leigh syndrome; Metabolic network modeling; NAD(P)H; Ndufs4(−/−) mice.
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