Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 30816165
Sci Rep 2019 Feb;9(1):3109
Human cells are stressed by numerous mechanisms that can lead to leakage of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to the cytoplasm and ultimately apoptosis. This agonist DNA constitutes a danger to the cell and is counteracted by cytoplasmic DNases and APOBEC3 cytidine deamination of DNA. To investigate APOBEC3 editing of leaked mtDNA to the cytoplasm, we performed a PCR analysis of APOBEC3 edited cytoplasmic mtDNA (cymtDNA) at the single cell level for primary CD4 T cells and the established P2 EBV blast cell line. Up to 17% of primary CD4 T cells showed signs of APOBEC3 edited cymtDNA with ~50% of all mtDNA sequences showing signs of APOBEC3 editing – between 1500-5000 molecules. Although the P2 cell line showed a much lower frequency of stressed cells, the number of edited mtDNA molecules in such cells was of the same order. Addition of the genotoxic molecules, etoposide or actinomycin D increased the number of cells showing APOBEC3 edited cymtDNA to around 40%. These findings reveal a very dynamic image of the mitochondrial network, which changes considerably under stress. APOBEC3 deaminases are involved in the catabolism of mitochondrial DNA to circumvent chronic immune stimulation triggered by released mitochondrial DNA from damaged cells.