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PLoS One. 2009 Aug 12;4(8):e6607. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006607.

Subcomplex Ilambda specifically controls integrated mitochondrial functions in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Division of Human Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Complex I dysfunction is a common, heterogeneous cause of human mitochondrial disease having poorly understood pathogenesis. The extensive conservation of complex I composition between humans and Caenorhabditis elegans permits analysis of individual subunit contribution to mitochondrial functions at both the whole animal and mitochondrial levels. We provide the first experimentally-verified compilation of complex I composition in C. elegans, demonstrating 84% conservation with human complex I. Individual subunit contribution to mitochondrial respiratory capacity, holocomplex I assembly, and animal anesthetic behavior was studied in C. elegans by RNA interference-generated knockdown of nuclear genes encoding 28 complex I structural subunits and 2 assembly factors. Not all complex I subunits directly impact respiratory capacity. Subcomplex Ilambda subunits along the electron transfer pathway specifically control whole animal anesthetic sensitivity and complex II upregulation, proportionate to their relative impairment of complex I-dependent oxidative capacity. Translational analysis of complex I dysfunction facilitates mechanistic understanding of individual gene contribution to mitochondrial disease. We demonstrate that functional consequences of complex I deficiency vary with the particular subunit that is defective.

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