Symmetric, progressive, necrotizing lesions in the brainstem are a defining feature of Leigh syndrome (LS). A mechanistic understanding of the pathogenesis of these lesions has been elusive. Here, we report that leukocyte proliferation is causally involved in the pathogenesis of LS. Depleting leukocytes with a colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor inhibitor disrupted disease progression, including suppression of CNS lesion formation and a substantial extension of survival. Leukocyte depletion rescued diverse symptoms, including seizures, respiratory center function, hyperlactemia, and neurologic sequelae. These data reveal a mechanistic explanation for the beneficial effects of mTOR inhibition. More importantly, these findings dramatically alter our understanding of the pathogenesis of LS, demonstrating that immune involvement is causal in disease. This work has important implications for the mechanisms of mitochondrial disease and may lead to novel therapeutic strategies.
Julia C. Stokes, Rebecca L. Bornstein, Katerina James, Kyung Yeon Park, Kira A. Spencer, Katie Vo, John C. Snell, Brittany M. Johnson, Philip G. Morgan, Margaret M. Sedensky, Nathan A. Baertsch, Simon C. Johnson