Cabirol-Pol MJ - Khalil B - Rival T - Faivre-Sarrailh C - Besson MT
Mitochondrial defects associated with respiratory chain complex I deficiency lead to heterogeneous fatal syndromes. While the role of NDUFS8, an essential subunit of the core assembly of the complex I, is established in mitochondrial diseases, the mechanisms underlying neuropathology are poorly understood. We developed a Drosophila model of NDUFS8 deficiency by knocking down the expression of its fly homologue in neurons or in glial cells. Downregulating ND23 in neurons resulted in shortened lifespan, and decreased locomotion. Although total brain ATP levels were decreased, histological analysis did not reveal any signs of neurodegeneration except for photoreceptors of the retina. Interestingly, ND23 deficiency-associated phenotypes were rescued by overexpressing the glucose transporter hGluT3 demonstrating that boosting glucose metabolism in neurons was sufficient to bypass altered mitochondrial functions and to confer neuroprotection. We then analyzed the consequences of ND23 knockdown in glial cells. In contrast to neuronal knockdown, loss of ND23 in glia did not lead to significant behavioral defects nor to reduced lifespan, but induced brain degeneration, as visualized by numerous vacuoles found all over the nervous tissue. This phenotype was accompanied by the massive accumulation of lipid droplets at the cortex-neuropile boundaries, suggesting an alteration of lipid metabolism in glia. These results demonstrate that complex I deficiency triggers metabolic alterations both in neurons and glial cells which may contribute to the neuropathology.