Following the involvement of CHCHD10 in FrontoTemporal-Dementia-Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (FTD-ALS) clinical spectrum, a founder mutation (p.Gly66Val) in the same gene was identified in Finnish families with late-onset spinal motor neuronopathy (SMAJ). SMAJ is a slowly progressive form of spinal muscular atrophy with a life expectancy within normal range. In order to understand why the p.Ser59Leu mutation, responsible for severe FTD-ALS, and the p.Gly66Val mutation could lead to different levels of severity, we compared their effects in patient cells. Unlike affected individuals bearing the p.Ser59Leu mutation, patients presenting with SMAJ phenotype have neither mitochondrial myopathy nor mtDNA instability. The expression of CHCHD10S59L mutant allele leads to disassembly of mitochondrial contact site and cristae organizing system (MICOS) with mitochondrial dysfunction and loss of cristae in patient fibroblasts. We also show that G66V fibroblasts do not display the loss of MICOS complex integrity and mitochondrial damage found in S59L cells. However, S59L and G66V fibroblasts show comparable accumulation of phosphorylated mitochondrial TDP-43 suggesting that the severity of phenotype and mitochondrial damage do not depend on mitochondrial TDP-43 localization. The expression of the CHCHD10G66V allele is responsible for mitochondrial network fragmentation and decreased sensitivity towards apoptotic stimuli, but with a less severe effect than that found in cells expressing the CHCHD10S59L allele. Taken together, our data show that cellular phenotypes associated with p.Ser59Leu and p.Gly66Val mutations in CHCHD10 are different; loss of MICOS complex integrity and mitochondrial dysfunction, but not TDP-43 mitochondrial localization, being likely essential to develop a severe motor neuron disease.
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