VARS2 Depletion Leads to Activation of the Integrated Stress Response and Disruptions in Mitochondrial Fatty Acid Oxidation

Elham Kayvanpour, Michael Wisdom, Maximilian K. Lackner, Farbod Sedaghat-Hamedani, Jes Niels Boeckel, Marion Müller, Rose Eghbalian, Jan Dudek, Shirin Doroudgar, Christoph Maack, Norbert Frey, Benjamin Meder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Mutations in mitochondrial aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (mtARSs) have been reported in patients with mitochondriopathies: most commonly encephalopathy, but also cardiomyopathy. Through a GWAS, we showed possible associations between mitochondrial valyl-tRNA synthetase (VARS2) dysregulations and non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. We aimed to investigate the possible consequences of VARS2 depletion in zebrafish and cultured HEK293A cells. Transient VARS2 loss-of-function was induced in zebrafish embryos using Morpholinos. The enzymatic activity of VARS2 was measured in VARS2-depleted cells via northern blot. Heterozygous VARS2 knockout was es-tablished in HEK293A cells using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. BN-PAGE and SDS-PAGE were used to investigate electron transport chain (ETC) complexes, and the oxygen consumption rate and ex-tracellular acidification rate were measured using a Seahorse XFe96 Analyzer. The activation of the integrated stress response (ISR) and possible disruptions in mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation (FAO) were explored using RT-qPCR and western blot. Zebrafish embryos with transient VARS2 loss-of-function showed features of heart failure as well as indications of CNS and skeletal muscle involvements. The enzymatic activity of VARS2 was significantly reduced in VARS2-depleted cells. Heterozygous VARS2-knockout cells showed a rearrangement of ETC complexes in favor of complexes III2, III2 + IV, and supercomplexes without significant respiratory chain deficiencies. These cells also showed the enhanced activation of the ISR, as indicated by increased eIF-2α phosphory-lation and a significant increase in the transcript levels of ATF4, ATF5, and DDIT3 (CHOP), as well as disruptions in FAO. The activation of the ISR and disruptions in mitochondrial FAO may under-lie the adaptive changes in VARS2-depleted cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7327
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • VARS2
  • heart failure
  • integrated stress response
  • mitochondrial FAO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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