Mitochondrial disease may be caused by mutations in the protein-coding genes of the mitochondrial genome. A promising strategy for treating such diseases is allotopic expression—the translation of wild-type copies of these proteins in the cytosol, with subsequent translocation into the mitochondria, resulting in rescue of mitochondrial function. In this paper, we develop an automated, quantitative, and unbiased screening platform to evaluate protein localization and mitochondrial morphology. This platform was used to compare 31 mitochondrial targeting sequences and 15 3′ UTRs in their ability to localize up to 9 allotopically expressed proteins to the mitochondria and their subsequent impact on mitochondrial morphology. Taking these two factors together, we synthesized chemically modified mRNAs that encode for an optimized allotopic expression construct for mtATP6. These mRNAs were able to functionally rescue a cell line harboring the 8993T > G point mutation in the mtATP6 gene. Allotopic expression of proteins normally encoded by mtDNA is a promising therapy for mitochondrial disease. Chin et al. use an unbiased and high-content imaging-based screening platform to optimize allotopic expression. Modified mRNAs encoding for the optimized allotopic expression constructs rescued the respiration and growth of mtATP6-deficient cells.
Chin, R. M., Panavas, T., Brown, J. M., & Johnson, K. K. (2018). Optimized Mitochondrial Targeting of Proteins Encoded by Modified mRNAs Rescues Cells Harboring Mutations in mtATP6. Cell Reports, 22(11), 2818–2826. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2018.02.059