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Endnote Referencing Essay
Laura Jenkins 17428794
Discuss how electrophoretic techniques can be used to analyze defects in mitochondrial respiratory
chain complexes.
Mitochondria are classified as the power house of eukaryotic cells, providing majority of cellular energy
in the form of ATP (McKenzie, Lazarou et al. 2007). Mitochondria produce ATP by oxidative
phosphorylation via an electrochemical gradient produced by the mitochondrial respiratory chain. The
respiratory chain is comprised of five complexes (I, II, III, IV and V) embedded into the inner
mitochondrial membrane, each complex is comprised of multiple sub-units hence the complexes are
highly ordered and believed to be supercomplexes (Zeviana and Donato 2004). Defects in these
complexes or sub units as a whole or singularly have been associated with various neuromuscular
diseases, these conditions have an incidence of 1 in 5000 births, onset begins at any age however the most
severe cases are found in children (Fernandez-Vizarra, Tiranti et al. 2009). Detecting the defects in the
mitochondrial respiratory chain complex associated with the neuromuscular disorders are analyzed in
many cases using Blue Native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (BN-PAGE), to obtain additional
information a two dimensional BN-PAGE/SDS PAGE is performed (Calvaruso, Smeitink et al. 2008).
BN-PAGE was developed in 1991 for the purpose of analyzing the respiratory chain complexes involved
in the oxidative phosphorylation process, the technique involves the separation of the complexes whilst
keeping them in their native form, as the complexes have not been denatured they remain enzymatically
active (Coster, Smet et al. 2001). To keep the complexes in their native form the correct detergent must be
used for solubilization, due to the complexes being integral membrane proteins they require a strong
enough detergent to detach it from the membrane. In BN-PAGE, solubilization is achieved by using non-
ionic detergents as they only interrupt lipid-lipid or lipid-protein interactions and not protein-protein
interactions therefore the proteins are not denatured, common non-ionic detergents are triton x-100 and
digitonin. When performing BN-PAGE for the respiratory chain complexes the detergent commonly used
is digitonin as it provides a large concentration range and destroys no protein-protein interactions
(Reisinger and Eichaker 2008).
Gene defects in respiratory chain complexes lead to a decrease in enzymes within the protein causing a
change in the overall composition, BN-PAGE is used to detect the abundance and composition of protein
complexes therefore defects are easily evaluated. When undertaking BN-PAGE a small amount of heart
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and skeletal muscle are taken for defect analysis, where the tissue will be solubilized using detergent
previously mentioned and centrifuged, then stained and ran through a gel where it will later be analyzed.
The advantages of using BN-PAGE include; only a small tissue sample size is required for the process,
complexes are able to be analyzed in their active form and staining makes analysis of the complex easy
(Coster, Smet et al. 2001).
Although BN-PAGE is a useful technique in analysis for defects it has its limitations therefore it is often
accompanied by western blotting or a second dimension of SDS-PAGE. When undertaking the western
blotting technique, electrophoresis must be done in two dimensions as BN-PAGE provides limitations to
the technique of which include; the epitopes are unrecognizable as the protein complex is not denatured
and are therefore hidden by the complex, the other limitation being, the dye associated with BN-PAGE
may interrupt the binding of antibody to the target protein (Nijtmans, Henderson et al. 2002). SDS-PAGE
is the second dimension of the electrophoretic technique and unlike BN-PAGE, SDS-PAGE requires
denaturation of protein complexes, which is achieved by ionic detergents such as SDS and DDM,
respectively the role of each detergent is to; interrupt the protein-protein interactions within the membrane
and break cysteine linkages. SDS-PAGE separates proteins based on their mass: charge ratio, making it a
useful technique in analyzing the molecular weight of complexes as well as the weights of the various
sub-units that the complexes are comprised of. SDS-PAGE provides to be a useful resource in detecting
defects, as it is possible that the defects in the chain complexes are found in one of the sub-units that
comprise any of the five complexes. As proteins are denatured with SDS-PAGE epitope availability
increases, also the absence of dye reduces any interruption for antibody-protein binding, therefore western
blotting can be used to its full potential (Calvaruso, Smeitink et al. 2008).
Through these electrophoretic techniques as well as accompanying techniques such as western blotting or
mass spectrometry testing for defects in such things as the mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes has
been made something that can be done in most science labs, and are useful in screening for clinical
purposes.BN-PAGE is the most useful technique for such analyses, however in most cases it is
accompanied by the second dimension, SDS-PAGE which is followed by immunoblotting this provides
as much information of the complexes as possible. When undertaking such procedures many aspects must
be taken into consideration such as the type of detergent used for solubilization, the type of dye that is
used as many dyes only compensate for a particular protein size, these points must be taken into account
for the specific sample type and size (Coster, Smet et al. 2001).

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Calvaruso, M. A., J. Smeitink and L. Nijtmans (2008). "Electrophoretic techniques to investigate defects
in oxidative phosphorylation." Methods 46: 7.
Coster, R. V., J. Smet, E. George, L. D. Meirleir, S. Seneca, J. V. Hove, G. Sebire, H. Verhelst, J. D.
V. Vlem, P. Verloo and J. Leroy (2001). "Blue Native Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis: A
Powerful Tool in Diagnosis of Oxidative Phosphorylation Defects." Pediatric Research 50(5): 8.
Fernandez-Vizarra, E., V. Tiranti and M. Zeviani (2009). "Assembly of the oxidative phosphyration
system in humans: What we have learned by studying its defects." Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
1793: 12.
McKenzie, M., M. Lazarou, D. R. Thorburn and M. T. Ryan (2007). "Analysis of mitochondrial subunit
assembly into respiratory chain complexes using Blue Native polyacylamide gel electrophoresis."
Analytical Biochemistry 364: 9.
Nijtmans, L. G. J., N. S. Henderson and I. J. Holt (2002). "Blue Native electrophoresis to study
mitochondrial and other protein complexes." Methods 26: 8.
Reisinger, V. and L. A. Eichaker (2008). "Solubilization of membrane protein complexes for blue native
PAGE." Journal of Proteomics 71: 7.
Zeviana, M. and S. D. Donato (2004). "Mitochondrial Disorder." Brain 127: 19.
(Coster, Smet et al. 2001, Nijtmans, Henderson et al. 2002, Zeviana and Donato 2004, McKenzie,
Lazarou et al. 2007, Calvaruso, Smeitink et al. 2008, Reisinger and Eichaker 2008, Fernandez-Vizarra,
Tiranti et al. 2009)