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Researchers Have Linked Rett Syndrome to Mitochondrial Gene

in completely. These animals are born healthy but begin to walk and breathe abnormally around 6 weeks of age, and start dying off at about 10 weeks (the average lifespan of a mouse is 2 years). The team compared the mutant mice to normal mice in search of genes that were off when they should be on, or vice-versa.

First, Kriaucionis purified the messenger RNA made by about 10,000 different genes from the brains of mutant mice that were almost 10 weeks old. Compared to normal animals of the same age, the team found more RNA produced by seven genes and less RNA made by three. Then Kriaucionis examined the messenger RNA produced by those 10 genes in the brains of mice that had only just started coming down with symptoms, at about 7 to 8 weeks of age. Three of the genes made too much of their protein product in the mutant brains as compared to normal brains.

The team reasoned that these three genes played greater roles in the disorder because they went awry earliest. They decided to focus on Uqcrc1 because much was already known about it, including its role in the mitochondria generating energy.

Mitochondria make energy in four steps, and researchers can test to determine which step malfunctions. The team purified mitochondria from the brains of mice lacking Mecp2 and normal mice. They fed energy precursors to the mitochondria and measured how much energy the factories put out.

Uqcrc1 protein works at the third step in the chain, called complex III. If the researchers supplied precursors that are used by mitochondria before the third step, the mitochondria from the mutant animals made significantly more energy than the normal mitochondria. If they supplied precursors that are used after complex III, the mutant mitochondria made the same amount of energy as normal organelles.

This suggested that overabundance of Uqcrc1 in complex III resulted in mitochondria cranking out more energy than the mutant animals needed
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