Detecting respiratory chain defects in osteoblasts from osteoarthritic patients using imaging mass cytometry

Bone. 2022 May:158:116371. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2022.116371. Epub 2022 Feb 19.


Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease which is characterised by reduced bone mass and microarchitecture, with a subsequent loss of strength that predisposes to fragility and risk of fractures. The pathogenesis of falling bone mineral density, ultimately leading to a diagnosis of osteoporosis is incompletely understood but the disease is currently thought to be multifactorial. Humans are known to accumulate mitochondrial mutations and respiratory chain deficiency with age and mounting evidence suggests that this may indeed be the overarching cause intrinsic to the changing phenotype in advancing age and age-related disease. Mitochondrial mutations are detectable from the age of about 30 years onwards. Mitochondria contain their own genome which encodes 13 essential mitochondrial proteins and accumulates somatic variants at up to 10 times the rate of the nuclear genome. Once the concentration of any pathogenic mitochondrial genome variant exceeds a threshold, respiratory chain deficiency and cellular dysfunction occur. The PolgD257A/D257A mouse model is a knock-in mutant that expresses a proof-reading-deficient version of PolgA, a nuclear encoded subunit of mtDNA polymerase. These mice are a useful model of age-related accumulation of mtDNA mutations in humans since their defective proof-reading mechanism leads to a mitochondrial DNA mutation rate 3-5 times higher than in wild-type mice. These mice showed enhanced levels of age-related osteoporosis along with respiratory chain deficiency in osteoblasts. To explore whether respiratory chain deficiency is also seen in human osteoblasts, we developed a protocol and analysis framework for imaging mass cytometry in bone tissue sections to analyse osteoblasts in situ. By comparing bone tissue sampled at one timepoint from femoral neck of 10 older healthy volunteers aged 40-85 with samples from young patients aged 1-19, we have identified complex I defect in osteoblasts from 6 out of 10 older volunteers, complex II defect in 2 out of 10 older volunteers, complex IV defect in 1 out of 10 older volunteers and complex V defect in 4 out of 10 older volunteers. These observations are consistent with findings from the PolgD257A/D257A mouse model and suggest that respiratory chain deficiency, as a consequence of the accumulation of age-related pathogenic mitochondrial DNA mutations, may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of human age-related osteoporosis.

Keywords: Aging; Imaging mass cytometry; Mitochondria; Osteoporosis; Respiratory chain defect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial* / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial* / metabolism
  • Electron Transport
  • Humans
  • Image Cytometry
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria* / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism


  • DNA, Mitochondrial