Hum Mol Genet. 2023 Jan 5:ddad001. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddad001. Online ahead of print.
Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) is a maternally transmitted eye disease due to the degeneration of retinal ganglion cells (RGC). Mitochondrial 11778G > A mutation is the most common LHON-associated mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutation. Our recent studies demonstrated some LHON families manifested by synergic interaction between m.11778G > A mutation and YARS2 allele (c.572G > T, p.Gly191Val) encoding mitochondrial tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase. However, the RGC-specific effects of LHON-associated mtDNA mutations remains elusive and there is no highly effective therapy for LHON. Here, we generated patients-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from fibroblasts derived from a Chinese LHON family (both m.11778G > A and c.572G > T mutations, only m.11778G > A mutation, and control subject). The c.572G > T mutation in iPSC lines from a syndromic individual was corrected by CRISPR/Cas9. Those iPSCs were differentiated into neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and subsequently induced RGC-like cells using a stepwise differentiation procedure. Those RGC-like cells derived from symptomatic individual harboring both m.11778G > A and c.572G > T mutations exhibited greater defects in neuronal differentiation, morphology including reduced area of soma, numbers of neurites, and shortened length of axons, electrophysiological properties than those in cells bearing only m.11778G > A mutation. Furthermore, these RGC-like cells revealed more drastic reductions in oxygen consumption rates, levels of mitochondrial ATP and increasing productions of reactive oxygen species than those in other cell models. These mitochondrial dysfunctions promoted the apoptotic process for RGC degenerations. Correction of YARS2 c.572G > T mutation rescued deficiencies of patient-derived RGC-like cells. These findings provide new insights into pathophysiology of LHON arising from RGC-specific mitochondrial dysfunctions and step toward therapeutic intervention for this disease.