Mitochondrial DNA depletion caused by thymidine kinase 2 (TK2) deficiency can be compensated by a nucleoside kinase from Drosophila melanogaster (Dm-dNK) in mice. We show that transgene expression of Dm-dNK in Tk2 knockout (Tk2-/-) mice extended the life span of Tk2 /- mice from 3 weeks to at least 20 months. The Dm-dNK+/-Tk2-/- mice maintained normal mtDNA levels throughout the observation time. A significant difference in total body weight due to the reduction of subcutaneous and visceral fat in the Dm-dNK+/-Tk2-/- mice was the only visible difference compared to control mice. This indicates an effect on fat metabolism mediated through residual Tk2 deficiency since Dm-dNK expression was low in both liver and fat tissues. Dm-dNK expression led to increased dNTP pools and an increase in the catabolism of purine and pyrimidine nucleotides but these alterations did not apparently affect the mice during the 20 months observation. In conclusion, Dm-dNK expression in the cell nucleus expanded the total dNTP pools to levels required for efficient mitochondrial DNA synthesis, thereby compensated the Tk2 deficiency, during a normal life span of the mice. The Dm-dNK+/- mouse serves as a model for nucleoside gene or enzyme substitutions, nucleotide imbalances and dNTP alterations in different tissues.
Fungi of the CTG clade translate the Leu CUG codon as Ser. This genetic code alteration is the only eukaryotic sense-to-sense codon reassignment known to date, is mediated by an ambiguous serine tRNA (tRNACAG(Ser)), exposes unanticipated flexibility of the genetic code and raises major questions about its selection and fixation in this fungal lineage. In particular, the origin of the tRNACAG(Ser) and the evolutionary mechanism of CUG reassignment from Leu to Ser remain poorly understood. In this study, we have traced the origin of the tDNACAG(Ser) gene and studied critical mutations in the tRNACAG(Ser) anticodon-loop that modulated CUG reassignment. Our data show that the tRNACAG(Ser) emerged from insertion of an adenosine in the middle position of the 5-CGA-3anticodon of a tRNACGA(Ser) ancestor, producing the 5-CAG-3 anticodon of the tRNACAG(Ser), without altering its aminoacylation properties. This mutation initiated CUG reassignment while two additional mutations in the anticodon-loop resolved a structural conflict produced by incorporation of the Leu 5-CAG-3anticodon in the anticodon-arm of a tRNA(Ser). Expression of the mutant tRNACAG(Ser) in yeast showed that it cannot be expressed at physiological levels and we postulate that such downregulation was essential to maintain Ser misincorporation at sub-lethal levels during the initial stages of CUG reassignment. We demonstrate here that such low level CUG ambiguity is advantageous in specific ecological niches and we propose that misreading tRNAs are targeted for degradation by an unidentified tRNA quality control pathway.
Loss of thymidine kinase 2 (TK2) causes a heterogeneous myopathic form of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion syndrome (MDS) in humans that predominantly affects skeletal muscle tissue. In mice, TK2 deficiency also affects several tissues in addition to skeletal muscle, including brain, heart, adipose tissue, kidneys and causes death about 3 weeks after birth. We analysed skeletal muscle and heart muscle tissues of Tk2 knockout mice at postnatal development phase and observed that TK2 deficient pups grew slower and their skeletal muscles appeared significantly underdeveloped, whereas heart was close to normal in size. Both tissues showed mtDNA depletion and mitochondria with altered ultrastructure, as revealed by transmission electron microscopy. Gene expression microarray analysis showed a strong down-regulation of genes involved in cell cycle and cell proliferation in both tissues, suggesting a lower pool of undifferentiated proliferating cells. Analysis of isolated primary myoblasts from Tk2 knockout mice showed slow proliferation, less ability to differentiate and signs of premature senescence, even in absence of mtDNA depletion. Our data demonstrate that TK2 deficiency disturbs myogenic progenitor cells function in postnatal skeletal muscle and we propose this as one of the causes of underdeveloped phenotype and myopathic characteristic of the TK2 deficient mice, in addition to the progressive mtDNA depletion, mitochondrial damage and respiratory chain deficiency in post-mitotic differentiated tissue.
A strategy to reverse the symptoms of thymidine kinase 2 (TK2) deficiency in a mouse model was investigated. The nucleoside kinase from Drosophila melanogaster (Dm-dNK) was expressed in TK2-deficient mice that have been shown to present with a severe phenotype caused by mitochondrial DNA depletion. The Dm-dNK(+/-) transgenic mice were shown to be able to rescue the TK2-deficient mice. The Dm-dNK(+/-)TK2(-/-) mice were normal as judged by growth and behavior during the observation time of 6 months. The Dm-dNK-expressing mice showed a substantial increase in thymidine-phosphorylating activity in investigated tissues. The Dm-dNK expression also resulted in highly elevated dTTP pools. The dTTP pool alterations did not cause specific mitochondrial DNA mutations or deletions when 6-month-old mice were analyzed. The mitochondrial DNA was also detected at normal levels. In conclusion, the Dm-dNK(+/-)TK2(-/-) mouse model illustrates how dTMP synthesized in the cell nucleus can compensate for loss of intramitochondrial dTMP synthesis in differentiated tissue. The data presented open new possibilities to treat the severe symptoms of TK2 deficiency.
Translation fidelity is critical for protein synthesis and to ensure correct cell functioning. Mutations in the protein synthesis machinery or environmental factors that increase synthesis of mistranslated proteins result in cell death and degeneration and are associated with neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and with an increasing number of mitochondrial disorders. Remarkably, mRNA mistranslation plays critical roles in the evolution of the genetic code, can be beneficial under stress conditions in yeast and in Escherichia coli and is an important source of peptides for MHC class I complex in dendritic cells. Despite this, its biology has been overlooked over the years due to technical difficulties in its detection and quantification. In order to shed new light on the biological relevance of mistranslation we have generated codon misreading in Saccharomyces cerevisiae using drugs and tRNA engineering methodologies. Surprisingly, such mistranslation up-regulated the longevity gene PNC1. Similar results were also obtained in cells grown in the presence of amino acid analogues that promote protein misfolding. The overall data showed that PNC1 is a biomarker of mRNA mistranslation and protein misfolding and that PNC1-GFP fusions can be used to monitor these two important biological phenomena in vivo in an easy manner, thus opening new avenues to understand their biological relevance.
Organisms use highly accurate molecular processes to transcribe their genes and a variety of mRNA quality control and ribosome proofreading mechanisms to maintain intact the fidelity of genetic information flow. Despite this, low level gene translational errors induced by mutations and environmental factors cause neurodegeneration and premature death in mice and mitochondrial disorders in humans. Paradoxically, such errors can generate advantageous phenotypic diversity in fungi and bacteria through poorly understood molecular processes.
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