Mitochondrial Phenotypes in Genetically Diverse Neurodegenerative Diseases and Their Response to Mitofusin Activation

Xiawei Dang, Emily K. Walton, Barbara Zablocka, Robert H. Baloh, Michael E. Shy, Gerald W. Dorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Mitochondrial fusion is essential to mitochondrial fitness and cellular health. Neurons of patients with genetic neurodegenerative diseases often exhibit mitochondrial fragmentation, reflecting an imbalance in mitochondrial fusion and fission (mitochondrial dysdynamism). Charcot–Marie– Tooth (CMT) disease type 2A is the prototypical disorder of impaired mitochondrial fusion caused by mutations in the fusion protein mitofusin (MFN)2. Yet, cultured CMT2A patient fibroblast mitochondria are often reported as morphologically normal. Metabolic stress might evoke pathological mitochondrial phenotypes in cultured patient fibroblasts, providing a platform for the pre-clinical individualized evaluation of investigational therapeutics. Here, substitution of galactose for glucose in culture media was used to redirect CMT2A patient fibroblasts (MFN2 T105M, R274W, H361Y, R364W) from glycolytic metabolism to mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, which provoked characteristic mitochondrial fragmentation and depolarization and induced a distinct transcriptional signature. Pharmacological MFN activation of metabolically reprogrammed fibroblasts partially reversed the mitochondrial abnormalities in CMT2A and CMT1 and a subset of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease patients, implicating addressable mitochondrial dysdynamism in these illnesses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1053
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Mitochondrial dynamics
  • Mitofusin
  • Neurodegenerative diseases


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