Cardiolipin (CL) is a major membrane phospholipid specifically localized in mitochondria. At the cellular level, CL has been shown to have a role in mitochondrial energy production, mitochondrial membrane dynamics, and the triggering of apoptosis. However, the in vivo role of CL in multicellular organisms is largely unknown. In this study, by analyzing deletion mutants of a CL synthase gene (crls-1) in Caenorhabditis elegans, we demonstrated that CL depletion selectively caused abnormal mitochondrial function and morphology in germ cells but not in somatic cell types such as muscle cells. crls-1 mutants reached adulthood but were sterile with reduced germ cell proliferation and impaired oogenesis. In the gonad of crls-1 mutants, mitochondrial membrane potential was significantly decreased, and the structure of the mitochondrial cristae was disrupted. Contrary to the abnormalities in the gonad, somatic tissues in crls-1 mutants appeared normal with respect to cell proliferation, mitochondrial function, and mitochondrial morphology. Increased susceptibility to CL depletion in germ cells was also observed in mutants of phosphatidylglycerophosphate synthase, an enzyme responsible for producing phosphatidylglycerol, a precursor phospholipid of CL. We propose that the contribution of CL to mitochondrial function and morphology is different among the cell types in C. elegans.
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