Metallothionein 1 Overexpression Does Not Protect Against Mitochondrial Disease Pathology in Ndufs4 Knockout Mice

Hayley Christy Miller, Roan Louw, Michelle Mereis, Gerda Venter, John Drew Boshoff, Liesel Mienie, Mari van Reenen, Marianne Venter, Jeremie Zander Lindeque, Adán Domínguez-Martínez, Albert Quintana, Francois Hendrikus van der Westhuizen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Mitochondrial diseases (MD), such as Leigh syndrome (LS), present with severe neurological and muscular phenotypes in patients, but have no known cure and limited treatment options. Based on their neuroprotective effects against other neurodegenerative diseases in vivo and their positive impact as an antioxidant against complex I deficiency in vitro, we investigated the potential protective effect of metallothioneins (MTs) in an Ndufs4 knockout mouse model (with a very similar phenotype to LS) crossed with an Mt1 overexpressing mouse model (TgMt1). Despite subtle reductions in the expression of neuroinflammatory markers GFAP and IBA1 in the vestibular nucleus and hippocampus, we found no improvement in survival, growth, locomotor activity, balance, or motor coordination in the Mt1 overexpressing Ndufs4−/− mice. Furthermore, at a cellular level, no differences were detected in the metabolomics profile or gene expression of selected one-carbon metabolism and oxidative stress genes, performed in the brain and quadriceps, nor in the ROS levels of macrophages derived from these mice. Considering these outcomes, we conclude that MT1, in general, does not protect against the impaired motor activity or improve survival in these complex I–deficient mice. The unexpected absence of increased oxidative stress and metabolic redox imbalance in this MD model may explain these observations. However, tissue-specific observations such as the mildly reduced inflammation in the hippocampus and vestibular nucleus, as well as differential MT1 expression in these tissues, may yet reveal a tissue- or cell-specific role for MTs in these mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-262
Number of pages20
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Leigh syndrome
  • Metallothionein
  • Mitochondrial disease
  • Ndufs4 knockout mice
  • Oxidative stress
  • Phenotyping


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