mtDNA depletion-like syndrome in Wilson disease

Valentina Medici, Gaurav V. Sarode, Eleonora Napoli, Gyu Young Song, Noreene M. Shibata, Andre O. Guimarães, Charles E. Mordaunt, Dorothy A. Kieffer, Tagreed A. Mazi, Anna Czlonkowska, Tomasz Litwin, Janine M. LaSalle, Cecilia Giulivi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Wilson disease (WD) is caused by mutations in the copper transporter ATP7B, with its main pathology attributed to copper-mediated oxidative damage. The limited therapeutic effect of copper chelators and the early occurrence of mitochondrial deficits, however, undermine the prevalence of this mechanism. Methods: We characterized mitochondrial DNA copy number and mutations as well as bioenergetic deficits in blood from patients with WD and in livers of tx-j mice, a mouse model of hepatic copper accumulation. In vitro experiments with hepatocytes treated with CuSO4 were conducted to validate in vivo studies. Results: Here, for the first time, we characterized the bioenergetic deficits in WD as consistent with a mitochondrial DNA depletion-like syndrome. This is evidenced by enriched DNA synthesis/replication pathways in serum metabolomics and decreased mitochondrial DNA copy number in blood of WD patients as well as decreased mitochondrial DNA copy number, increased citrate synthase activity, and selective Complex IV deficit in livers of the tx-j mouse model of WD. Tx-j mice treated with the copper chelator penicillamine, methyl donor choline or both ameliorated mitochondrial DNA damage but further decreased mitochondrial DNA copy number. Experiments with copper-loaded HepG2 cells validated the concept of a direct copper-mitochondrial DNA interaction. Conclusions: This study underlines the relevance of targeting the copper-mitochondrial DNA pool in the treatment of WD separate from the established copper-induced oxidative stress-mediated damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLiver International
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • bioenergetics
  • copper
  • mitochondria
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • oxidative stress
  • penicillamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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