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Detecting respiratory chain defects in osteoblasts from osteoarthritic patients using imaging mass cytometry

Lookup NU author(s): Dan Hipps, Dr Philip Dobson, Dr Charlotte Warren, Dr David McDonald, Andrew Fuller, Professor Andrew FilbyORCiD, Dr David Bulmer, Dr Alex LaudeORCiD, Dr Oliver Russell, Professor David Deehan, Emeritus Professor Doug Turnbull, Dr Conor LawlessORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2022. Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease which is characterised by reduced bone mass and microarchitecture, with a subsequent loss of strength that predisposes to fragility and risk of fractures. The pathogenesis of falling bone mineral density, ultimately leading to a diagnosis of osteoporosis is incompletely understood but the disease is currently thought to be multifactorial. Humans are known to accumulate mitochondrial mutations and respiratory chain deficiency with age and mounting evidence suggests that this may indeed be the overarching cause intrinsic to the changing phenotype in advancing age and age-related disease. Mitochondrial mutations are detectable from the age of about 30 years onwards. Mitochondria contain their own genome which encodes 13 essential mitochondrial proteins and accumulates somatic variants at up to 10 times the rate of the nuclear genome. Once the concentration of any pathogenic mitochondrial genome variant exceeds a threshold, respiratory chain deficiency and cellular dysfunction occur. The PolgD257A/D257A mouse model is a knock-in mutant that expresses a proof-reading-deficient version of PolgA, a nuclear encoded subunit of mtDNA polymerase. These mice are a useful model of age-related accumulation of mtDNA mutations in humans since their defective proof-reading mechanism leads to a mitochondrial DNA mutation rate 3–5 times higher than in wild-type mice. These mice showed enhanced levels of age-related osteoporosis along with respiratory chain deficiency in osteoblasts. To explore whether respiratory chain deficiency is also seen in human osteoblasts, we developed a protocol and analysis framework for imaging mass cytometry in bone tissue sections to analyse osteoblasts in situ. By comparing bone tissue sampled at one timepoint from femoral neck of 10 older healthy volunteers aged 40–85 with samples from young patients aged 1–19, we have identified complex I defect in osteoblasts from 6 out of 10 older volunteers, complex II defect in 2 out of 10 older volunteers, complex IV defect in 1 out of 10 older volunteers and complex V defect in 4 out of 10 older volunteers. These observations are consistent with findings from the PolgD257A/D257A mouse model and suggest that respiratory chain deficiency, as a consequence of the accumulation of age-related pathogenic mitochondrial DNA mutations, may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of human age-related osteoporosis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hipps D, Dobson PF, Warren C, McDonald D, Fuller A, Filby A, Bulmer D, Laude A, Russell O, Deehan DJ, Turnbull DM, Lawless C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Bone

Year: 2022

Volume: 158

Print publication date: 01/05/2022

Online publication date: 19/02/2022

Acceptance date: 15/02/2022

Date deposited: 15/06/2023

ISSN (print): 8756-3282

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2763

Publisher: Elsevier Inc.


DOI: 10.1016/j.bone.2022.116371

PubMed id: 35192969


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Funder referenceFunder name
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Malhotra Group
Newcastle NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Age and Age Related Diseases
Newcastle University Centre for Ageing and Vitality
Royal College of Surgeons of England
Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research