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Background: Autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA) is usually caused by mutations in the essential gene, OPA1. This encodes a ubiquitous protein involved in mitochondrial dynamics, hence tissue specificity is not understood. Dysregulated mitophagy (mitochondria recycling) is implicated in ADOA, being increased in OPA1 patient fibroblasts. Furthermore, autophagy may be increased in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) of the OPA1Q285STOP mouse model. Aims: We developed a mouse model for studying mitochondrial dynamics in order to investigate mitophagy in ADOA. Methods: We crossed the OPA1Q285STOP mouse with our RedMIT/GFP-LC3 mouse, harboring red fluorescent mitochondria and green fluorescent autophagosomes. Colocalization between mitochondria and autophagosomes, the hallmark of mitophagy, was quantified in fluorescently labeled organelles in primary cell cultures, using two high throughput imaging methods Imagestream (Amnis) and IN Cell Analyzer 1000 (GE Healthcare Life Sciences). We studied colocalization between mitochondria and autophagosomes in fixed sections using confocal microscopy. Results: We validated our imaging methods for RedMIT/GFP-LC3 mouse cells, showing that colocalization of red fluorescent mitochondria and green fluorescent autophagosomes is a useful indicator of mitophagy. We showed that colocalization increases when lysosomal processing is impaired. Further, colocalization of mitochondrial fragments and autophagosomes is increased in cultures from the OPA1Q285STOP/RedMIT/GFP-LC3 mice compared to RedMIT/GFP-LC3 control mouse cells that were wild type for OPA1. This was apparent in both mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) using IN Cell 1000 and in splenocytes using ImageStream imaging flow cytometer (Amnis). We confirmed that this represents increased mitophagic flux using lysosomal inhibitors. We also used microscopy to investigate the level of mitophagy in the retina from the OPA1Q285STOP/RedMIT/GFP-LC3 mice and the RedMIT/GFP-LC3 control mice. However, the expression levels of fluorescent proteins and the image signal-to-background ratios precluded the detection of colocalization so we were unable to show any difference in colocalization between these mice. Conclusions: We show that colocalization of fluorescent mitochondria and autophagosomes in cell cultures, but not fixed tissues from the RedMIT/GFP-LC3, can be used to detect mitophagy. We used this model to confirm that mitophagy is increased in a mouse model of ADOA. It will be useful for cell based studies of diseases caused by impaired mitochondrial dynamics.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Cell Dev Biol

Publication Date





ADOA, OPA1, high content imaging, mitochondrial fragmentation, mitophagy, mouse model