Mitochondria house the metabolic machinery for cellular ATP production. The mitochondrial network is sensitive to perturbations (e.g., oxidative stress and pathogen invasion) that can alter membrane potential, thereby compromising function. Healthy mitochondria maintain high membrane potential due to oxidative phosphorylation (Ly et al., 2003). Changes in mitochondrial function or calcium levels can cause depolarization, or a sharp decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential (Bernardi, 2013). Mitochondrial depolarization induces opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP), which allows release of mitochondrial components like reactive oxygen species (mtROS), mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) or intermembrane space proteins into the cytosol (Martinou and Green, 2001; Tait and Green, 2010; Bronner and O'Riordan, 2014). These contents trigger inflammation, and can lead to cell death (West et al., 2011). Both mtROS and cytosolic mtDNA contribute to the activation of inflammasomes, multiprotein complexes that process the proinflammatory cytokines, IL-18 and IL-1β. Studies indicate that cytosolic mtDNA in particular can bind two different inflammasome sensors, AIM2 and NLRP3, leading to inflammasome activation (Burckstummer et al., 2009; Hornung and Latz, 2010). In this protocol, you will be able to specifically extract cytosolic mtDNA and quantify the amount using a qPCR assay.
Figure 1. Flowchart for extracting, purifying, and amplifying cytosolic mtDNA
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