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      Cross-strand binding of TFAM to a single mtDNA molecule forms the mitochondrial nucleoid

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          Abstract

          Mammalian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is packaged by mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) into mitochondrial nucleoids that are of key importance in controlling the transmission and expression of mtDNA. Nucleoid ultrastructure is poorly defined, and therefore we used a combination of biochemistry, superresolution microscopy, and electron microscopy to show that mitochondrial nucleoids have an irregular ellipsoidal shape and typically contain a single copy of mtDNA. Rotary shadowing electron microscopy revealed that nucleoid formation in vitro is a multistep process initiated by TFAM aggregation and cross-strand binding. Superresolution microscopy of cultivated cells showed that increased mtDNA copy number increases nucleoid numbers without altering their sizes. Electron cryo-tomography visualized nucleoids at high resolution in isolated mammalian mitochondria and confirmed the sizes observed by superresolution microscopy of cell lines. We conclude that the fundamental organizational unit of the mitochondrial nucleoid is a single copy of mtDNA compacted by TFAM, and we suggest a packaging mechanism.

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          Most cited references 29

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          Far-field optical nanoscopy.

           Stefan Hell (2007)
          In 1873, Ernst Abbe discovered what was to become a well-known paradigm: the inability of a lens-based optical microscope to discern details that are closer together than half of the wavelength of light. However, for its most popular imaging mode, fluorescence microscopy, the diffraction barrier is crumbling. Here, I discuss the physical concepts that have pushed fluorescence microscopy to the nanoscale, once the prerogative of electron and scanning probe microscopes. Initial applications indicate that emergent far-field optical nanoscopy will have a strong impact in the life sciences and in other areas benefiting from nanoscale visualization.
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            Mitochondrial transcription factor A regulates mtDNA copy number in mammals.

            Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number regulation is altered in several human mtDNA-mutation diseases and it is also important in a variety of normal physiological processes. Mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) is essential for human mtDNA transcription and we demonstrate here that it is also a key regulator of mtDNA copy number. We initially performed in vitro transcription studies and determined that the human TFAM protein is a poor activator of mouse mtDNA transcription, despite its high capacity for unspecific DNA binding. Next, we generated P1 artificial chromosome (PAC) transgenic mice ubiquitously expressing human TFAM. The introduced human TFAM gene was regulated in a similar fashion as the endogenous mouse Tfam gene and expression of the human TFAM protein in the mouse did not result in down-regulation of the endogenous expression. The PAC-TFAM mice thus had a net overexpression of TFAM protein and this resulted in a general increase of mtDNA copy number. We used a combination of mice with TFAM overexpression and TFAM knockout and demonstrated that mtDNA copy number is directly proportional to the total TFAM protein levels also in mouse embryos. Interestingly, the expression of human TFAM in the mouse results in up-regulation of mtDNA copy number without increasing respiratory chain capacity or mitochondrial mass. It is thus possible to experimentally dissociate mtDNA copy number regulation from mtDNA expression and mitochondrial biogenesis in mammals in vivo. In conclusion, our results provide genetic evidence for a novel role for TFAM in direct regulation of mtDNA copy number in mammals.
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              Somatic mitochondrial DNA mutations in mammalian aging.

              Mitochondrial dysfunction is heavily implicated in the multifactorial aging process. Aging humans have increased levels of somatic mtDNA mutations that tend to undergo clonal expansion to cause mosaic respiratory chain deficiency in various tissues, such as heart, brain, skeletal muscle, and gut. Genetic mouse models have shown that somatic mtDNA mutations and cell type-specific respiratory chain dysfunction can cause a variety of phenotypes associated with aging and age-related disease. There is thus strong observational and experimental evidence to implicate somatic mtDNA mutations and mosaic respiratory chain dysfunction in the mammalian aging process. The hypothesis that somatic mtDNA mutations are generated by oxidative damage has not been conclusively proven. Emerging data instead suggest that the inherent error rate of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymerase gamma (Pol gamma) may be responsible for the majority of somatic mtDNA mutations. The roles for mtDNA damage and replication errors in aging need to be further experimentally addressed.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                September 08 2015
                September 08 2015
                September 08 2015
                August 24 2015
                : 112
                : 36
                : 11288-11293
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1512131112
                26305956
                © 2015

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