Single-Cell Approaches for Studying the Role of Mitochondrial DNA in Neurodegenerative Disease

Methods Mol Biol. 2021:2277:299-329. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-1270-5_19.


In light of accumulating evidence suggestive of cell type-specific vulnerabilities as a result of normal aging processes that adversely affect the brain, as well as age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD), the current chapter highlights how we study mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) changes at a single-cell level. In particular, we comment on increasing questioning of the narrow neurocentric view of such pathologies, where microglia and astrocytes have traditionally been considered bystanders rather than players in related pathological processes. Here we review the contribution made by single-cell mtDNA alterations towards neuronal vulnerability seen in neurodegenerative disorders, focusing on PD as a prominent example. In addition, we give an overview of methodologies that support such experimental investigations. In considering the significant advances that have been made in recent times for developing mitochondria-specific therapies, investigations to account for cell type-specific mitochondrial patterns and how these are altered by disease hold promise for delivering more effective disease-modifying therapeutics.

Keywords: Age-related disorders; Cell specificity; Mitochondria; Mitochondrial DNA; Neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease; Single-cell analyses.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Brain / pathology*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial