A progressive decline in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation function during life is a likely contributor to neurodegeneration. However, the understanding of the mechanisms involved in the mitochondrial defects is still rudimentary and practical approaches to mitigate this problem are not available. Our project will study these two aspects of mitochondrial involvement in neurodegeneration and aging. In the first part, we propose to study the role of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions in the aging of the brain. We will use a novel mouse developed in our laboratory in which a mitochondria targeted restriction endonuclease (Mito-PstI) is expressed in a tissue-specific and inducible fashion. The double-strand breaks elicited by Mito-PstI lead to recombination and deletion formation. We will generate mtDNA deletions in the CNS or ubiquitously. The role of the mitochondrial polymerase gamma in repairing these double-strand breaks will also be analyzed. The goal of this aim is to study the functional consequences of accumulating different levels of mtDNA deletions during neurodegeneration and aging. In the second part of the proposal, we will develop approaches to mitigate the aging of CNS and other tissues by increasing the expression of PGC-1a, either in skeletal muscle or ubiquitously. This will be achieved by stable and inducible expression. The effect of PGC-1a will be tested both in normal aging mice and in the proof-reading deficient polymerase gamma "mutator mouse". The latter is a model of accelerated aging.
Both aims are based on extensive published and unpublished preliminary data. We are confident that the accomplishment of these two aims will lead to not only a better understanding of the role of mitochondrial defects in age-related neurodegeneration but also to novel approaches to counteract these effects.
Mitochondria is believed to play a major role in neurodegeneration and aging. By better understanding the mechanisms involved in this process and by developing approaches to counteract these effects, the debilitating effects of the neurodegenerative process could be mitigated.
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