Tissue-specific splicing of an Ndufs6 gene-trap insertion generates a mitochondrial complex I deficiency-specific cardiomyopathy

Bi Xia Ke, Salvatore Pepe, David R. Grubb, Jasper C. Komen, Adrienne Laskowski, Felicity A. Rodda, Belinda M. Hardman, James J. Pitt, Michael T. Ryan, Michael Lazarou, Jane Koleff, Michael M H Cheung, Joseph J. Smolich, David R. Thorburn

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Mitochondrial complex I (CI) deficiency is the most common mitochondrial enzyme defect in humans. Treatment of mitochondrial disorders is currently inadequate, emphasizing the need for experimental models. In humans, mutations in the NDUFS6 gene, encoding a CI subunit, cause severe CI deficiency and neonatal death. In this study, we generated a CI-deficient mouse model by knockdown of the Ndufs6 gene using a gene-trap embryonic stem cell line. Ndufs6 gt/gt mice have essentially complete knockout of the Ndufs6 subunit in heart, resulting in marked CI deficiency. Small amounts of wild-type Ndufs6 mRNA are present in other tissues, apparently due to tissue-specific mRNA splicing, resulting in milder CI defects. Ndufs6 gt/gt mice are born healthy, attain normal weight and maturity, and are fertile. However, after 4 mo in males and 8 mo in females, Ndufs6 gt/gt mice are at increased risk of cardiac failure and death. Before overt heart failure, Ndufs6 gt/gt hearts show decreased ATP synthesis, accumulation of hydroxyacylcarnitine, but not reactive oxygen species (ROS). Ndufs6 gt/gt mice develop biventricular enlargement by 1 mo, most pronounced in males, with scattered fibrosis and abnormal mitochondrial but normal myofibrillar ultrastructure. Ndufs6 gt/gt isolated working heart preparations show markedly reduced left ventricular systolic function, cardiac output, and functional work capacity. This reduced energetic and functional capacity is consistent with a known susceptibility of individuals with mitochondrial cardiomyopathy to metabolic crises precipitated by stresses. This model of CI deficiency will facilitate studies of pathogenesis, modifier genes, and testing of therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6165-6170
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Mitochondrial diseases
  • Mouse model

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