Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutagenesis and nuclear DNA repair defects are considered cellular mechanisms of ageing. mtDNA mutator mice with increased mtDNA mutagenesis show signs of premature ageing. However, why patients with mitochondrial diseases, or mice with other forms of mitochondrial dysfunction, do not age prematurely remains unknown. Here, we show that cells from mutator mice display challenged nuclear genome maintenance similar to that observed in progeric cells with defects in nuclear DNA repair. Cells from mutator mice show slow nuclear DNA replication fork progression, cell cycle stalling and chronic DNA replication stress, leading to double-strand DNA breaks in proliferating progenitor or stem cells. The underlying mechanism involves increased mtDNA replication frequency, sequestering of nucleotides to mitochondria, depletion of total cellular nucleotide pools, decreased deoxynucleoside 5′-triphosphate (dNTP) availability for nuclear genome replication and compromised nuclear genome maintenance. Our data indicate that defects in mtDNA replication can challenge nuclear genome stability. We suggest that defects in nuclear genome maintenance, particularly in the stem cell compartment, represent a unified mechanism for mouse progerias. Therefore, through their destabilizing effects on the nuclear genome, mtDNA mutations are indirect contributors to organismal ageing, suggesting that the direct role of mtDNA mutations in driving ageing-like symptoms might need to be revisited.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Internal Medicine
- Physiology (medical)