Epilepsy, intellectual and cortical sensory deficits, and psychiatric manifestations are the most frequent manifestations of mitochondrial diseases. How mitochondrial dysfunction affects neural structure and function remains elusive, mostly because of a lack of proper in vitro neuronal model systems with mitochondrial dysfunction. Leveraging induced pluripotent stem cell technology, we differentiated excitatory cortical neurons (iNeurons) with normal (low heteroplasmy) and impaired (high heteroplasmy) mitochondrial function on an isogenic nuclear DNA background from patients with the common pathogenic m.3243A > G variant of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS). iNeurons with high heteroplasmy exhibited mitochondrial dysfunction, delayed neural maturation, reduced dendritic complexity, and fewer excitatory synapses. Micro-electrode array recordings of neuronal networks displayed reduced network activity and decreased synchronous network bursting. Impaired neuronal energy metabolism and compromised structural and functional integrity of neurons and neural networks could be the primary drivers of increased susceptibility to neuropsychiatric manifestations of mitochondrial disease. Using human-inducible-pluripotent-stem-cell-derived neurons with high levels of m.3243A > G heteroplasmy, Klein Gunnewiek et al. show neuron-specific mitochondrial dysfunction as well as structural and functional impairments ranging from reduced dendritic complexity and fewer synapses and mitochondria to reduced neuronal activity and impaired network synchronicity.
- induced pluripotent stem cells
- m.3243A > G
- micro-electrode array
- mitochondrial disease
- network activity