Viral infection in mitochondrial disease

Booster Grants

$75,000 AUD

01/02/2019 → 01/02/2021

Carolyn Sue


Dr Tara Richman

Research Institution

Harry Perkins Institute/University of Western Australia

Project Name

Viral infection in mitochondrial disease

Project Overview

Dysfunctional mitochondria cause a diverse group of multi-system human pathologies that
often result in severe, progressive and lethal diseases for which there are no effective
treatments. This project will utilise a unique model of mitochondrial disease to examine how
stress such as an infection can trigger the onset of mitochondrial disease, its progression and
potential therapeutic mechanisms.

Project Details

Defects in mitochondrial proteins cause a diverse group of multi-system human pathologies that
result in severe and often fatal mitochondrial diseases. There are no cures for these diseases
and available therapies include only supportive measures, such as palliative surgery or
antiepileptic drugs. This is a result of the lack of understanding of the molecular mechanisms
that lead to mitochondrial diseases, due to the difficulty in investigating the pathology in tissues
not severely affected by the disease, such as fibroblasts.

For patients with mitochondrial disease, common infections can be life-threatening as
enormous energy demands are exerted on the immune system to generate a response and
overcome the infection. Despite this, there are currently no studies in this area. In this project
we will use a novel mouse model of mitochondrial disease which faithfully mimics the human disease, to investigate how a mutation in a single gene can cause the onset and progression of a
multi-system disorder; the molecular changes that lead to pathology and how they are
exacerbated during infection.

The Taco1 mutant mice have molecular defects from 4 weeks of age, but do not develop their mitochondrial disease symptoms until 30 weeks of age, much like the patients who show late-onset clinical symptoms by age 7-11. Using this new bona fide model of human mitochondrial disease, we aim to understand how onset and/or progression of mitochondrial disease can be triggered with a sudden stress such as a common viral infection.

This would be the first study to investigate the effects of viral infection on mitochondrial
dysfunction in disease.