Mitochondrial disorders associated with genetic defects of the ATP synthase are among the most deleterious diseases of the neuromuscular system that primarily manifest in newborns. Nevertheless, the number of established animal models for the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms behind such pathologies is limited. In this paper, we target the Drosophila melanogaster gene encoding for the ATP synthase subunit c, ATPsynC, in order to create a fruit fly model for investigating defects in mitochondrial bioenergetics and to better understand the comprehensive pathological spectrum associated with mitochondrial ATP synthase dysfunctions. Using P-element and EMS mutagenesis, we isolated a set of mutations showing a wide range of effects, from larval lethality to complex pleiotropic phenotypes encompassing developmental delay, early adult lethality, hypoactivity, sterility, hypofertility, aberrant male courtship behavior, locomotor defects and aberrant gonadogenesis. ATPsynC mutations impair ATP synthesis and mitochondrial morphology, and represent a powerful toolkit for the screening of genetic modifiers that can lead to potential therapeutic solutions. Furthermore, the molecular characterization of ATPsynC mutations allowed us to better understand the genetics of the ATPsynC locus and to define three broad pathological consequences of mutations affecting the mitochondrial ATP synthase functionality in Drosophila: i) pre-adult lethality; ii) multi-trait pathology accompanied by early adult lethality; iii) multi-trait adult pathology. We finally predict plausible parallelisms with genetic defects of mitochondrial ATP synthase in humans.
Lovero, D., Giordano, L., Marsano, R. M., Sanchez-Martinez, A., Boukhatmi, H., Drechsler, M., … Caggese, C. (2018). Characterization of drosophila ATPsynC mutants as a new model of mitochondrial ATP synthase disorders. PLoS ONE, 13(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201811