DOI: 10.26508/lsa.202302271 ISSN:

T cell differentiation drives the negative selection of pathogenic mitochondrial DNA variants

Imogen G Franklin, Paul Milne, Jordan Childs, Róisín M Boggan, Isabel Barrow, Conor Lawless, Gráinne S Gorman, Yi Shiau Ng, Matthew Collin, Oliver M Russell, Sarah J Pickett
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Plant Science
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology

Pathogenic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) single-nucleotide variants are a common cause of adult mitochondrial disease. Levels of some variants decrease with age in blood. Given differing division rates, longevity, and energetic requirements within haematopoietic lineages, we hypothesised that cell-type–specific metabolic requirements drive this decline. We coupled cell-sorting with mtDNA sequencing to investigate mtDNA variant levels within progenitor, myeloid, and lymphoid lineages from 26 individuals harbouring one of two pathogenic mtDNA variants (m.3243A>G and m.8344A>G). For both variants, cells of the T cell lineage show an enhanced decline. High-throughput single-cell analysis revealed that decline is driven by increasing proportions of cells that have cleared the variant, following a hierarchy that follows the current orthodoxy of T cell differentiation and maturation. Furthermore, patients with pathogenic mtDNA variants have a lower proportion of T cells than controls, indicating a key role for mitochondrial function in T cell homeostasis. This work identifies the ability of T cell subtypes to selectively purify their mitochondrial genomes, and identifies pathogenic mtDNA variants as a new means to track blood cell differentiation status.

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