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CRISPR-Mediated Induction of Neuron-Enriched Mitochondrial Proteins Boosts Direct Glia-to-Neuron Conversion.

Cell Stem Cell. 2020 Nov 9:S1934-5909(20)30509-9. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2020.10.015. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33202244.

Authors/Editors: Russo GL, Sonsalla G, Natarajan P, Breunig CT, Bulli G, Merl-Pham J, Schmitt S, Giehrl-Schwab J, Giesert F, Jastroch M, Zischka H, Wurst W, Stricker SH, Hauck SM, Masserdotti G, Götz M.
Publication Date: 2020


Astrocyte-to-neuron conversion is a promising avenue for neuronal replacement therapy. Neurons are particularly dependent on mitochondrial function, but how well mitochondria adapt to the new fate is unknown. Here, we determined the comprehensive mitochondrial proteome of cortical astrocytes and neurons, identifying about 150 significantly enriched mitochondrial proteins for each cell type, including transporters, metabolic enzymes, and cell-type-specific antioxidants. Monitoring their transition during reprogramming revealed late and only partial adaptation to the neuronal identity. Early dCas9-mediated activation of genes encoding mitochondrial proteins significantly improved conversion efficiency, particularly for neuron-enriched but not astrocyte-enriched antioxidant proteins. For example, Sod1 not only improves the survival of the converted neurons but also elicits a faster conversion pace, indicating that mitochondrial proteins act as enablers and drivers in this process. Transcriptional engineering of mitochondrial proteins with other functions improved reprogramming as well, demonstrating a broader role of mitochondrial proteins during fate conversion.

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