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Investigation of Mitochondrial Transfer between Human Erythroblasts

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posted on 07.12.2021, 20:15 by Lewer, Brittany

The increasingly studied phenomenon of mitochondria transferring between cells contrasts the popular belief that mitochondria reside permanently within their cells of origin. Research has identified this process occurring in many tissues such as brain, lung and more recently within the bone marrow. This project aimed to investigate if mitochondria could be transferred between human erythroblasts, a context not previously studied.  Tissue microenvironments can be modelled using co-culture systems. Fluorescence activated cell sorting and a highly sensitive Allele-Specific-Blocker qPCR assay were used to leverage mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms between co-cultured populations. Firstly, HL-60ρ₀ bone marrow cells, without mitochondrial DNA, deprived of essential nutrients pyruvate and uridine were co-cultured in vitro with HEL cells, a human erythroleukemia. Secondly, HEL cells treated with deferoxamine or cisplatin, were cocultured with parental HL-60 cells in vitro. Lastly, ex vivo co-cultures between erythroblasts differentiated from mononuclear cells in peripheral blood were conducted, where one population was treated with deferoxamine.  Co-culture was able to improve recovery when HL-60ρ₀ cells were deprived of pyruvate and uridine. Improved recovery was similarly detected for HEL cells treated with deferoxamine after co-culture with HL-60 cells. Transfer of mitochondrial DNA did not occur at a detectable level in any co-culture condition tested. The high sensitivity of the allele-specific-blocker qPCR assay required completely pure populations to analyse, however this was not achieved using FACS techniques. In conclusion, results have not demonstrated but cannot exclude the possibility that erythroid cells transfer mitochondria to each other.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Biomedical Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Biomedical Science

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Centre for Biodiscovery

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


McConnell, Melanie; Weinkove, Robert