Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Precursors for mitochondrial DNA replication : metabolic sources and relations to mutagenesis and human diseases

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  • It is well known that the mitochondrial genome has a much higher spontaneous mutation rate than the nuclear genome. mtDNA mutations have been identified in association with many diseases and aging. mtDNA replication continues throughout the cell cycle, even in post-mitotic cells. Therefore, a constant supply of nucleotides is required for replication and maintenance of the mitochondrial genome. However, it is not clear how dNTPs arise within mitochondria nor how mitochondrial dNTP pools are regulated. Recent evidence suggests that abnormal mitochondrial nucleoside and nucleotide metabolism is associated with several human diseases. Clearly, to uncover the pathogenesis of these diseases and the mechanisms of mitochondrial mutagenesis, information is needed regarding dNTP biosynthesis and maintenance within mitochondria, and biochemical consequences of disordered mitochondrial dNTP metabolism. The studies described in this thesis provide important insight into these questions. First, we found that a distinctive form of ribonucleotide reductase is associated with mammalian liver mitochondria, indicating the presence of de novo pathway for dNTP synthesis within mitochondria. Second, we found that long term thymidine treatment could induce mtDNA deletions and the mitochondrial dNTP pool changes resulting from thymidine treatment could account for the spectrum of mtDNA point mutations found in Mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy (MNGIE) patients. These results support the proposed pathogenesis of this disease. Third, we found that normal intramitochondrial dNTP pools in rat tissues are highly asymmetric, and in vitro fidelity studies show that these imbalanced pools can stimulate base substitution and frameshift mutations, with a substitution pattern that correlates with mitochondrial substitution mutations in vivo. These findings suggest that normal intramitochondrial dNTP pool asymmetries could contribute to mitochondrial mutagenesis and mitochondrial diseases. Last, Amish lethal microcephaly (MCPHA) has been proposed to be caused by insufficient transport of dNTPs into mitochondria resulting from a loss-of-function mutation in the gene encoding a mitochondrial deoxynucleotide carrier (DNC). We found that there are no significant changes of intramitochondrial dNTP levels in both a MCPHA patient's lymphoblasts with a missense point mutation in Dnc gene and the homozygous mutant cells extracted from Dnc gene knockout mouse embryos. These results do not support the proposed pathogenesis of this disease and indicate that the DNC protein does not play a crucial role in the maintenance of intramitochondrial dNTP pools.
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