Mitochondrial structural changes are associated with the regulation of mitochondrial function, apoptosis, and neurodegenerative diseases. PRKN is known to be involved with various mechanisms of mitochondrial quality control including mitochondrial structural changes. Parkinson’s disease (PD) with PRKN mutations is characterized by the preferential degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, which has been suggested to result from the accumulation of damaged mitochondria. However, ultrastructural changes of mitochondria specifically in dopaminergic neurons derived from iPSC have rarely been analyzed. The main reason for this would be that the dopaminergic neurons cannot be distinguished directly among a mixture of iPSC-derived differentiated cells under electron microscopy. To selectively label dopaminergic neurons and analyze mitochondrial morphology at the ultrastructural level, we generated control and PRKN-mutated patient tyrosine hydroxylase reporter (TH-GFP) induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines. Correlative light-electron microscopy analysis and live cell imaging of GFP-expressing dopaminergic neurons indicated that iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons had smaller and less functional mitochondria than those in non-dopaminergic neurons. Furthermore, the formation of spheroid-shaped mitochondria, which was induced in control dopaminergic neurons by a mitochondrial uncoupler, was inhibited in the PRKN-mutated dopaminergic neurons. These results indicate that our established TH-GFP iPSC lines are useful for characterizing mitochondrial morphology, such as spheroid-shaped mitochondria, in dopaminergic neurons among a mixture of various cell types. Our in vitro model would provide insights into the vulnerability of dopaminergic neurons and the processes leading to the preferential loss of dopaminergic neurons in patients with PRKN mutations.
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