Rats with a human mutation of NFu1 develop pulmonary hypertension

Maki Niihori, Cody A. Eccles, Sergey Kurdyukov, Marina Zemskova, Mathews Valuparampil Varghese, Anna A. Stepanova, Alexander Galkin, Ruslan Rafikov, Olga Rafikova

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28 Scopus citations


NFU1 is a mitochondrial protein that is involved in the biosynthesis of iron-sulfur clusters, and its genetic modification is associated with disorders of mitochondrial energy metabolism. Patients with autosomal-recessive inheritance of the NFU1 mutation G208C have reduced activity of the respiratory chain Complex II and decreased levels of lipoic-acid–dependent enzymes, and develop pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in z70% of cases. We investigated whether rats with a human mutation in NFU1 are also predisposed to PAH development. A point mutation in rat NFU1G206C (human G208C) was introduced through CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. Hemodynamic data, tissue samples, and fresh mitochondria were collected and analyzed. NFU1G206C rats showed increased right ventricular pressure, right ventricular hypertrophy, and high levels of pulmonary artery remodeling. Computed tomography and angiography of the pulmonary vasculature indicated severe angioobliterative changes in NFU1G206C rats. Importantly, the penetrance of the PAH phenotype was found to be more prevalent in females than in males, replicating the established sex difference among patients with PAH. Male and female homozygote rats exhibited decreased expression and activity of mitochondrial Complex II, and markedly decreased pyruvate dehydrogenase activity and lipoate binding. The limited development of PAH in males correlated with the preserved levels of oligomeric NFU1, increased expression of ISCU (an alternative branch of the iron-sulfur assembly system), and increased complex IV activity. Thus, the male sex has additional plasticity to overcome the iron-sulfur cluster deficiency. Our work describes a novel, humanized rat model of NFU1 deficiency that showed mitochondrial dysfunction similar to that observed in patients and developed PAH with the same sex dimorphism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-242
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory cell and molecular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Complex II
  • Iron-sulfur cluster
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • Sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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