Barth syndrome is an X-linked genetic disorder caused by mutations in the tafazzin (taz) gene and characterized by dilated cardiomyopathy, exercise intolerance, chronic fatigue, delayed growth, and neutropenia. Tafazzin is a mitochondrial transacylase required for cardiolipin remodeling. Although tafazzin function has been studied in non-mammalian model organisms, mammalian genetic loss of function approaches have not been used. We examined the consequences of tafazzin knockdown on sarcomeric mitochondria and cardiac function in mice. Tafazzin knockdown resulted in a dramatic decrease of tetralinoleoyl cardiolipin in cardiac and skeletal muscles and accumulation of monolysocardiolipins and cardiolipin molecular species with aberrant acyl groups. Electron microscopy revealed pathological changes in mitochondria, myofibrils, and mitochondrion-associated membranes in skeletal and cardiac muscles. Echocardiography and magnetic resonance imaging revealed severe cardiac abnormalities, including left ventricular dilation, left ventricular mass reduction, and depression of fractional shortening and ejection fraction in tafazzin-deficient mice. Tafazzin knockdown mice provide the first mammalian model system for Barth syndrome in which the pathophysiological relationships between altered content of mitochondrial phospholipids, ultrastructural abnormalities, myocardial and mitochondrial dysfunction, and clinical outcome can be completely investigated.
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