Mitochondrial respiration is impaired during late stage hamster prion infection

Faris, R., et al. Mitochondrial respiration is impaired during late stage hamster prion infection. Journal of Virology. JVI.00524-17. 28/6/2017.

Mitochondria are crucial to proper neuronal function and overall brain health. Mitochondrial dysfunction within the brain has been observed in many neurodegenerative diseases including prion disease. Several markers of decreased mitochondrial activity have been reported during prion infection yet the bioenergetic respiratory status of mitochondria from prion-infected animals is unknown. Here, we show that clinically ill transgenic mice overexpressing hamster prion protein (Tg7) infected with the hamster prion strain 263K suffer from a severe deficit in mitochondrial oxygen consumption in response to the respiratory Complex II substrate, succinate. Characterization of the mitochondrial proteome of purified brain mitochondria from infected and uninfected Tg7 mice showed significant differences in the relative abundance of key mitochondrial electron transport proteins in 263K-infected animals relative to controls. Our results suggest that, at clinical stages of prion infection, dysregulation of respiratory chain proteins may lead to impairment of mitochondrial respiration in the brain.IMPORTANCE Mitochondrial dysfunction is present in most major neurodegenerative diseases and some studies have suggested that mitochondrial processes may be altered during prion disease. Here we show that hamster prion infected transgenic mice overexpressing the hamster prion protein (Tg7 mice) suffer from mitochondrial respiratory deficits. Tg7 mice infected with the 263K hamster prion strain have little or no signs of mitochondrial dysfunction at the disease midpoint but suffer from a severe deficit in mitochondrial respiration at the clinical phase of disease. A proteomic analysis of the isolated brain mitochondria from clinically affected animals showed that several proteins involved in electron transport, mitochondrial dynamics, and mitochondrial protein synthesis were dysregulated. These results suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction, possible exacerbated by prion protein overexpression, occurs at late stages during 263K prion disease and that this dysfunction may be the result of dysregulation of mitochondrial proteins.