An X-chromosome linked mouse model (Ndufa1S55A) for systemic partial Complex I deficiency for studying predisposition to neurodegeneration and other diseases

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The respiratory chain Complex I deficiencies are the most common cause of mitochondrial diseases. Complex I biogenesis is controlled by 58 genes and at least 47 of these cause mitochondrial disease in humans. Two of these are X-chromosome linked nuclear (nDNA) genes (NDUFA1 and NDUFB11), and 7 are mitochondrial (mtDNA, MT-ND1-6, -4L) genes, which may be responsible for sex-dependent variation in the presentation of mitochondrial diseases. In this study, we describe an X-chromosome linked mouse model (Ndufa1S55A) for systemic partial Complex I deficiency. By homologous recombination, a point mutation T > G within 55th codon of the Ndufa1 gene was introduced. The resulting allele Ndufa1S55A introduced systemic serine-55-alanine (S55A) mutation within the MWFE protein, which is essential for Complex I assembly and stability. The S55A mutation caused systemic partial Complex I deficiency of ∼50% in both sexes. The mutant males (Ndufa1S55A/Y) displayed reduced respiratory exchange ratio (RER) and produced less body heat. They were also hypoactive and ate less. They showed age-dependent Purkinje neurons degeneration. Metabolic profiling of brain, liver and serum from males showed reduced heme levels in mutants, which correlated with altered expressions of Fech and Hmox1 mRNAs in tissues. This is the first genuine X-chromosome linked mouse model for systemic partial Complex I deficiency, which shows age-dependent neurodegeneration. The effect of Complex I deficiency on survival patterns of males vs. females was different. We believe this model will be very useful for studying sex-dependent predisposition to both spontaneous and stress-induced neurodegeneration, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.