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1.  Bistability of Mitochondrial Respiration Underlies Paradoxical Reactive Oxygen Species Generation Induced by Anoxia 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(12):e1000619.
Increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in mitochondria underlies major systemic diseases, and this clinical problem stimulates a great scientific interest in the mechanism of ROS generation. However, the mechanism of hypoxia-induced change in ROS production is not fully understood. To mathematically analyze this mechanism in details, taking into consideration all the possible redox states formed in the process of electron transport, even for respiratory complex III, a system of hundreds of differential equations must be constructed. Aimed to facilitate such tasks, we developed a new methodology of modeling, which resides in the automated construction of large sets of differential equations. The detailed modeling of electron transport in mitochondria allowed for the identification of two steady state modes of operation (bistability) of respiratory complex III at the same microenvironmental conditions. Various perturbations could induce the transition of respiratory chain from one steady state to another. While normally complex III is in a low ROS producing mode, temporal anoxia could switch it to a high ROS producing state, which persists after the return to normal oxygen supply. This prediction, which we qualitatively validated experimentally, explains the mechanism of anoxia-induced cell damage. Recognition of bistability of complex III operation may enable novel therapeutic strategies for oxidative stress and our method of modeling could be widely used in systems biology studies.
Author Summary
The levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are generated as a side product of mitochondrial respiratory electron transport largely define the extent of oxidative stress in living cells. Free radicals formed in electron transport, such as ubisemiquinone, could pass their non-paired electron directly to oxygen, thus producing superoxide radical that gives rise to a variety of ROS. It is well known in clinical practice that upon recommencing oxygen supply after anoxia a tissue produces much more ROS than before the anoxia, and the state of high ROS production is stable. The mechanism of switching from low to high ROS production by temporal anoxia was unknown, in part because of the lack of detailed mathematical description of hundreds of redox states of respiratory complexes, which are formed in the process of electron transport. A new methodology of automated construction of large systems of differential equations allowed us to describe the system in detail and predicts that the mechanism of paradoxical effect of anoxia-reoxygenation could be defined by the properties of complex III of mitochondrial respiratory chain. Our experiments confirmed that the effect of hypoxia-reoxygenation is confined by intramitochondrial processes since it is observed in isolated mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC2789320  PMID: 20041200
2.  Multistationary and Oscillatory Modes of Free Radicals Generation by the Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain Revealed by a Bifurcation Analysis 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(9):e1002700.
The mitochondrial electron transport chain transforms energy satisfying cellular demand and generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) that act as metabolic signals or destructive factors. Therefore, knowledge of the possible modes and bifurcations of electron transport that affect ROS signaling provides insight into the interrelationship of mitochondrial respiration with cellular metabolism. Here, a bifurcation analysis of a sequence of the electron transport chain models of increasing complexity was used to analyze the contribution of individual components to the modes of respiratory chain behavior. Our algorithm constructed models as large systems of ordinary differential equations describing the time evolution of the distribution of redox states of the respiratory complexes. The most complete model of the respiratory chain and linked metabolic reactions predicted that condensed mitochondria produce more ROS at low succinate concentration and less ROS at high succinate levels than swelled mitochondria. This prediction was validated by measuring ROS production under various swelling conditions. A numerical bifurcation analysis revealed qualitatively different types of multistationary behavior and sustained oscillations in the parameter space near a region that was previously found to describe the behavior of isolated mitochondria. The oscillations in transmembrane potential and ROS generation, observed in living cells were reproduced in the model that includes interaction of respiratory complexes with the reactions of TCA cycle. Whereas multistationarity is an internal characteristic of the respiratory chain, the functional link of respiration with central metabolism creates oscillations, which can be understood as a means of auto-regulation of cell metabolism.
Author Summary
The mitochondrial respiratory chain shows a variety of modes of behavior. In living cells, flashes of ROS production and oscillations accompanied by a decrease of transmembrane potential can be registered. The mechanisms of such complex behavior are difficult to rationalize without a mathematical formalization of mitochondrial respiration. Our most complete model of mitochondrial respiration accounts for the details of electron transport, reproducing the observed types of behavior, which includes the existence of multiple steady states and periodic oscillations. This most detailed model contains hundreds of differential equations, and such complexity makes it difficult to grasp the main determinants of its behavior. Therefore the full model was reduced to a simplified description of complex III only, and numerical bifurcation analysis was used to study its behavior. Then the evolution of its behavior was traced in a sequence of models with increasing complexity leading back to the full model. This analysis revealed the mechanism of switching between the modes of behavior and the conditions for persistence in a given state, which defines ATP production, ROS signaling and destructive effects. This is important for understanding the biochemical basics of many systemic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3447950  PMID: 23028295
3.  Mitochondrial function and redox control in the aging eye: Role of MsrA and other repair systems in cataract and macular degenerations 
Experimental eye research  2008;88(2):195-203.
Oxidative stress occurs when the level of prooxidants exceeds the level of antioxidants in cells resulting in oxidation of cellular components and consequent loss of cellular function. Oxidative stress is implicated in wide range of age related disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's disease and the aging process itself (Lin and Beal, 2006). In the anterior segment of the eye, oxidative stress has been linked to lens cataract (Truscott, 2005) and glaucoma (Tezel, 2006) while in the posterior segment of the eye oxidative stress has been associated with macular degeneration (Hollyfield et al., 2008). Key to many oxidative stress conditions are alterations in the efficiency of mitochondrial respiration resulting in superoxide (O2-) production. Superoxide production precedes subsequent reactions that form potentially more dangerous reactive oxygen species (ROS) species such as the hydroxyl radical (˙OH), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and peroxynitrite (OONO-). The major source of ROS in the mitochondria, and in the cell overall, is leakage of electrons from complexes I and III of the electron transport chain. It is estimated that 0.2-2% of oxygen taken up by cells is converted to ROS, through mitochondrial superoxide generation, by the mitochondria (Hansford et al., 1997). Generation of superoxide at complex I and III has been shown to occur at both the matrix side of the inner mitochondrial membrane and the cytosolic side of the membrane (Kakkar and Singh 2007). While exogenous sources of ROS such as UV light, visible light, ionizing radiation, chemotherapeutics, and environmental toxins may contribute to the oxidative milieu, mitochondria are perhaps the most significant contribution to ROS production affecting the aging process. In addition to producing ROS, mitochondria are also a target for ROS which in turn reduces mitochondrial efficiency and leads to the generation of more ROS in a vicious self-destructive cycle. Consequently, the mitochondria have evolved a number of antioxidant and key repair systems to limit the damaging potential of free oxygen radicals and to repair damaged proteins (Figure 1.0). The aging eye appears to be at considerable risk from oxidative stress. This review will outline the potential role of mitochondrial function and redox balance in age-related eye diseases, and detail how the methionine sulfoxide reductase (Msr) protein repair system and other redox systems play key roles in the function and maintenance of the aging eye.
PMCID: PMC2683477  PMID: 18588875
Mitochondria; Cataract; Macular Degeneration; Oxidative Stress; Reactive Oxygen Species; Aging; Methionine Sulfoxide Reductase
4.  The Role of External and Matrix pH in Mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species Generation* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2008;283(43):29292-29300.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation in mitochondria as a side product of electron and proton transport through the inner membrane is important for normal cell operation as well as development of pathology. Matrix and cytosol alkalization stabilizes semiquinone radical, a potential superoxide producer, and we hypothesized that proton deficiency under the excess of electron donors enhances reactive oxygen species generation. We tested this hypothesis by measuring pH dependence of reactive oxygen species released by mitochondria. The experiments were performed in the media with pH varying from 6 to 8 in the presence of complex II substrate succinate or under more physiological conditions with complex I substrates glutamate and malate. Matrix pH was manipulated by inorganic phosphate, nigericine, and low concentrations of uncoupler or valinomycin. We found that high pH strongly increased the rate of free radical generation in all of the conditions studied, even when ΔpH = 0 in the presence of nigericin. In the absence of inorganic phosphate, when the matrix was the most alkaline, pH shift in the medium above 7 induced permeability transition accompanied by the decrease of ROS production. ROS production increase induced by the alkalization of medium was observed with intact respiring mitochondria as well as in the presence of complex I inhibitor rotenone, which enhanced reactive oxygen species release. The phenomena revealed in this report are important for understanding mechanisms governing mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species, in particular that related with uncoupling proteins.
PMCID: PMC2570889  PMID: 18687689
5.  Differential effects of buffer pH on Ca2+-induced ROS emission with inhibited mitochondrial complexes I and III 
Excessive mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) emission is a critical component in the etiology of ischemic injury. Complex I and complex III of the electron transport chain are considered the primary sources of ROS emission during cardiac ischemia and reperfusion (IR) injury. Several factors modulate ischemic ROS emission, such as an increase in extra-matrix Ca2+, a decrease in extra-matrix pH, and a change in substrate utilization. Here we examined the combined effects of these factors on ROS emission from respiratory complexes I and III under conditions of simulated IR injury. Guinea pig heart mitochondria were suspended in experimental buffer at a given pH and incubated with or without CaCl2. Mitochondria were then treated with either pyruvate, a complex I substrate, followed by rotenone, a complex I inhibitor, or succinate, a complex II substrate, followed by antimycin A, a complex III inhibitor. H2O2 release rate and matrix volume were compared with and without adding CaCl2 and at pH 7.15, 6.9, or 6.5 with pyruvate + rotenone or succinate + antimycin A to simulate conditions that may occur during in vivo cardiac IR injury. We found a large increase in H2O2 release with high [CaCl2] and pyruvate + rotenone at pH 6.9, but not at pHs 7.15 or 6.5. Large increases in H2O2 release rate also occurred at each pH with high [CaCl2] and succinate + antimycin A, with the highest levels observed at pH 7.15. The increases in H2O2 release were associated with significant mitochondrial swelling, and both H2O2 release and swelling were abolished by cyclosporine A, a desensitizer of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP). These results indicate that ROS production by complex I and by complex III is differently affected by buffer pH and Ca2+ loading with mPTP opening. The study suggests that changes in the levels of cytosolic Ca2+ and pH during IR alter the relative amounts of ROS produced at mitochondrial respiratory complex I and complex III.
PMCID: PMC4354303  PMID: 25805998
mitochondrial complex I; mitochondrial complex III; reactive oxygen species; simulated ischemia; mitochondrial permeability transition pore; Ca2+; pH
6.  Mitochondrial DNA analysis in primary congenital glaucoma 
Molecular Vision  2010;16:518-533.
To screen mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) for nucleotide variations in primary congenital glaucoma (PCG).
The entire coding region of the mitochondrial genome was amplified by polymerase chain reaction from 35 PCG patients and 40 controls. The full mtDNA genome except the D-loop was sequenced. All sequences were analyzed against mitochondrial reference sequence NC_012920.
MtDNA sequencing revealed a total of 132 and 58 nucleotide variations in PCG and controls, respectively. Of 132 nucleotide variations, 42 (31.81%) were non-synonymous and 82 (62.12%) were synonymous changes, and 8 were in RNA genes. The highest number of nucleotide variations were recorded in complex I followed by complex IV, then complex V. Eight patients (22.85%) had potentially pathogenic mtDNA nucleotide changes and twenty (57.14%) had mtDNA sequence changes associated with elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Mitochondria not only constitute the energy-generating system in the cell, but are also critically involved in calcium signaling and apoptosis. Mitochondrial function can be affected by mutations in mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, chemical insults to components of the electron transport chain, and a lack of substrates such as oxygen. Mitochondrial dysfunction results in an excessive generation of free radicals and reduced mitochondrial respiration. Developing trabecular meshwork (TM) is deficient in antioxidant enzymes, and thus is more susceptible to oxidative stress (OS) induced damage. Previous studies have documented certain mtDNA sequence variations associated with elevated ROS levels and OS. Three such changes (G10398A, A12308G, and G13708A) were present in our patients. Elevated ROS may cause OS. This OS may further damage mtDNA and may cause decreased mitochondrial respiration. This may lead to impaired growth, development and differentiation of TM and consequently trabecular-dysgenesis, which is a characteristic feature of PCG. OS affects both TM and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and may be involved in the neuronal death affecting the optic nerve in glaucoma. There are several studies which point to mitochondrial dysfunction in different types of glaucoma and critically participate in RGC death. Recent studies also implicate mitochondrial dysfunction-associated OS as a risk factor for glaucoma patients. It has been reported that elevated hydrostatic pressure causes breakdown of the mitochondrial network by mitochondrial fission and induce cristae depletion and cellular ATP reduction in differentiated RGC-5 cells in vitro as well as in vivo.
A total of 44 novel mtDNA variations were identified in this study. Non-synonymous mtDNA variations may adversely affect respiratory chain, impair OXPHOS pathway result in low ATP production, high ROS production and impair growth, development and differentiation of TM lead to trabecular-dysgenesis and consequently RGC’s death. Such cases with mtDNA variations and consequent OS may benefit by early diagnosis and prompt management by antioxidant therapy. This may delay OS induced injury to TM and RGCs and hence improve visual prognosis.
PMCID: PMC2846849  PMID: 20361014
7.  Localization of superoxide anion production to mitochondrial electron transport chain in 3-NPA-treated cells 
Mitochondrion  2006;6(5):235-244.
3-Nitropropionic acid (3-NPA), an inhibitor of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) at complex II of the mitochondrial electron transport chain induces cellular energy deficit and oxidative stress-related neurotoxicity. In the present study, we identified the site of reactive oxygen species production in mitochondria. 3-NPA increased O2•− generation in mitochondria respiring on the complex I substrates pyruvate + malate, an effect fully inhibited by rotenone. Antimycin A increased O2•− production in the presence of complex I and/or II substrates. Addition of 3-NPA markedly increased antimycin A-induced O2•− production by mitochondria incubated with complex I substrates, but 3-NPA inhibited O2•− formation driven with the complex II substrate succinate. At 0.6 μM, myxothiazol inhibits complex III, but only partially decreases complex I activity, and allowed 3-NPA-induced O2•− formation; however, at 40 μM myxothiazol (which completely inhibits both complexes I and III) eliminated O2•− production from mitochondria respiring via complex I substrates. These results indicate that in the presence of 3-NPA, mitochondria generate O2•− from a site between the ubiquinol pool and the 3-NPA block in the respiratory complex II.
PMCID: PMC3031911  PMID: 17011837
3-NPA; Superoxide anion; Mitochondrial respiratory complexes
8.  Hyperoxia Decreases Glycolytic Capacity, Glycolytic Reserve and Oxidative Phosphorylation in MLE-12 Cells and Inhibits Complex I and II Function, but Not Complex IV in Isolated Mouse Lung Mitochondria 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73358.
High levels of oxygen (hyperoxia) are frequently used in critical care units and in conditions of respiratory insufficiencies in adults, as well as in infants. However, hyperoxia has been implicated in a number of pulmonary disorders including bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Hyperoxia increases the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mitochondria that could impair the function of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. We analyzed lung mitochondrial function in hyperoxia using the XF24 analyzer (extracellular flux) and optimized the assay for lung epithelial cells and mitochondria isolated from lungs of mice. Our data show that hyperoxia decreases basal oxygen consumption rate (OCR), spare respiratory capacity, maximal respiration and ATP turnover in MLE-12 cells. There was significant decrease in glycolytic capacity and glycolytic reserve in MLE-12 cells exposed to hyperoxia. Using mitochondria isolated from lungs of mice exposed to hyperoxia or normoxia we have shown that hyperoxia decreased the basal, state 3 and state3 μ (respiration in an uncoupled state) respirations. Further, using substrate or inhibitor of a specific complex we show that the OCR via complex I and II, but not complex IV was decreased, demonstrating that complexes I and II are specific targets of hyperoxia. Further, the activities of complex I (NADH dehydrogenase, NADH-DH) and complex II (succinate dehydrogenase, SDH) were decreased in hyperoxia, but the activity of complex IV (cytochrome oxidase, COX) remains unchanged. Taken together, our study show that hyperoxia impairs glycolytic and mitochondrial energy metabolism in in tact cells, as well as in lungs of mice by selectively inactivating components of electron transport system.
PMCID: PMC3759456  PMID: 24023862
9.  Cytoprotection by the Modulation of Mitochondrial Electron Transport Chain: The Emerging Role of Mitochondrial STAT3 
Mitochondrion  2011;12(2):180-189.
The down regulation of mitochondrial electron transport is an emerging mechanism of cytoprotective intervention that is effective in pathologic settings such as myocardial ischemia and reperfusion when the continuation of mitochondrial respiration produces reactive oxygen species, mitochondrial calcium overload, and the release of cytochrome c to activate cell death programs. The initial target of deranged electron transport is the mitochondria themselves. In the first part of this review, we describe this concept and summarize different approaches used to regulate mitochondrial respiration by targeting complex I as a proximal site in the electron transport chain (ETC) in order to favor the cytoprotection. The second part of the review highlights the emerging role of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) in the direct, non-transcriptional regulation of ETC, as an example of a genetic approach to modulate respiration. Recent studies indicate that a pool of STAT3 resides in the mitochondria where it is necessary for the maximal activity of complexes I and II of the electron transport chain (ETC). The over expression of mitochondrial-targeted STAT3 results in a partial blockade of electron transport at complexes I and II that does not impair mitochondrial membrane potential nor enhance the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The targeting of transcriptionally-inactive STAT3 to mitochondria attenuates damage to mitochondria during cell stress, resulting in decreased production of ROS and retention of cytochrome c by mitochondria. The overexpression of STAT3 targeted to mitochondria unveils a novel protective approach mediated by modulation of mitochondrial respiration that is independent of STAT3 transcriptional activity. The limitation of mitochondrial respiration under pathologic circumstances can be approached by activation and over expression of endogenous signaling mechanisms in addition to pharmacologic means. The regulation of mitochondrial respiration comprises a cardioprotective paradigm to decrease cellular injury during ischemia and reperfusion.
PMCID: PMC3278553  PMID: 21930250
10.  Isoflurane differentially modulates mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production via forward versus reverse electron transport flow: Implications for preconditioning 
Anesthesiology  2011;115(3):531-540.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) mediate the effects of anesthetic precondition to protect against ischemia and reperfusion injury, but the mechanisms of ROS generation remain unclear. In this study, we investigated if mitochondria-targeted antioxidant (mitotempol) abolishes the cardioprotective effects of anesthetic preconditioning. Further, we investigated the mechanism by which isoflurane alters ROS generation in isolated mitochondria and submitochondrial particles.
Rats were pretreated with 0.9% saline, 3.0 mg/kg mitotempol in the absence or presence of 30 min exposure to isoflurane. Myocardial infarction was induced by left anterior descending artery occlusion for 30 min followed by reperfusion for 2h and infarct size measurements. Mitochondrial ROS production was determined spectrofluorometrically. The effect of isoflurane on enzymatic activity of mitochondrial respiratory complexes was also determined.
Isoflurane reduced myocardial infarct size (40±9 % = mean±SD) compared to control experiments (60±4 %). Mitotempol abolished the cardioprotective effects of anesthetic preconditioning (60±9%). Isoflurane enhanced ROS generation in submitochondrial particles with NADH, but not with succinate, as substrate. In intact mitochondria, isoflurane enhanced ROS production in the presence of rotenone, antimycin A, or ubiquinone when pyruvate and malate were substrates, but isoflurane attenuated ROS production when succinate was substrate. Mitochondrial respiratory experiments and electron transport chain complex assays revealed that isoflurane inhibited only complex I activity.
The results demonstrated that isoflurane produces ROS at complex I and III of the respiratory chain via the attenuation of complex I activity. The action on complex I decreases unfavorable reverse electron flow and ROS release in myocardium during reperfusion.
PMCID: PMC3337729  PMID: 21862887
11.  Farnesol-Induced Generation of Reactive Oxygen Species via Indirect Inhibition of the Mitochondrial Electron Transport Chain in the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(17):4460-4465.
The mechanism of farnesol (FOH)-induced growth inhibition of Saccharomyces cerevisiae was studied in terms of its promotive effect on generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The level of ROS generation in FOH-treated cells increased five- to eightfold upon the initial 30-min incubation, while cells treated with other isoprenoid compounds, like geraniol, geranylgeraniol, and squalene, showed no ROS-generating response. The dependence of FOH-induced growth inhibition on such an oxidative stress was confirmed by the protection against such growth inhibition in the presence of an antioxidant such as α-tocopherol, probucol, or N-acetylcysteine. FOH could accelerate ROS generation only in cells of the wild-type grande strain, not in those of the respiration-deficient petite mutant ([rho0]), which illustrates the role of the mitochondrial electron transport chain as its origin. Among the respiratory chain inhibitors, ROS generation could be effectively eliminated with myxothiazol, which inhibits oxidation of ubiquinol to the ubisemiquinone radical by the Rieske iron-sulfur center of complex III, but not with antimycin A, an inhibitor of electron transport that is functional in further oxidation of the ubisemiquinone radical to ubiquinone in the Q cycle of complex III. Cellular oxygen consumption was inhibited immediately upon extracellular addition of FOH, whereas FOH and its possible metabolites failed to directly inhibit any oxidase activities detected with the isolated mitochondrial preparation. A protein kinase C (PKC)-dependent mechanism was suggested to exist in the inhibition of mitochondrial electron transport since FOH-induced ROS generation could be effectively eliminated with a membrane-permeable diacylglycerol analog which can activate PKC. The present study supports the idea that FOH inhibits the ability of the electron transport chain to accelerate ROS production via interference with a phosphatidylinositol type of signal.
PMCID: PMC107455  PMID: 9721283
12.  Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Diabetes: From Molecular Mechanisms to Functional Significance and Therapeutic Opportunities 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2010;12(4):537-577.
Given their essential function in aerobic metabolism, mitochondria are intuitively of interest in regard to the pathophysiology of diabetes. Qualitative, quantitative, and functional perturbations in mitochondria have been identified and affect the cause and complications of diabetes. Moreover, as a consequence of fuel oxidation, mitochondria generate considerable reactive oxygen species (ROS). Evidence is accumulating that these radicals per se are important in the pathophysiology of diabetes and its complications. In this review, we first present basic concepts underlying mitochondrial physiology. We then address mitochondrial function and ROS as related to diabetes. We consider different forms of diabetes and address both insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity. We also address the role of mitochondrial uncoupling and coenzyme Q. Finally, we address the potential for targeting mitochondria in the therapy of diabetes. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 12, 537–577.
Basic Physiology
Electron transport
Reactive oxygen species and mitochondria
Mitochondrial nitric oxide
Role of calcium and the mitochondrial permeability transition pore
Assessing Mitochondrial Function
Respiration and potential
ATP production and the proton leak
ROS production by isolated mitochondria
Site specificity of mitochondrial superoxide production
Mitochondrial ROS production in intact cells
Oxidative damage to mitochondria in intact cells
Mitochondrial Metabolism and Diabetes
General considerations
Mitochondrial diabetes
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Mitochondrial number and morphology
Mitochondrial biogenesis
Mitochondrial function in type 2 diabetes and insulin-resistant states
Is mitochondrial impairment a cause of insulin resistance?
Mitochondrial respiratory coupling and insulin release
Mitochondrial function in insulin-deficient diabetes
Diabetes and mitochondrial function in non–insulin-sensitive tissues
Mitochondria and cell-fuel selectivity
Diabetic cardiomyopathy and mitochondrial function
Mitochondrial ROS and Diabetes
ROS production and the cause of diabetes
Oxidative damage and pancreatic islet β cells
ROS and oxidative damage in insulin-sensitive target tissues
ROS and the complications of diabetes
Non–insulin-sensitive tissues (retina, renal, neural cells)
ROS and vascular cells
Mitochondrial Membrane Potential and Diabetes
Role of uncoupling proteins
Does membrane potential actually protect against superoxide production?
Coenzyme Q and Diabetes
Therapeutic Implications
Improving mitochondrial metabolism
Lifestyle modification
Pharmacologic intervention
Controlling ROS production and oxidative damage
Mitochondria-targeted antioxidants
Metabolic effects of mitochondria-targeted antioxidants
Mitochondria-targeted antioxidant peptides
Targeting superoxide
PMCID: PMC2824521  PMID: 19650713
13.  A Biophysical Model of the Mitochondrial Respiratory System and Oxidative Phosphorylation  
PLoS Computational Biology  2005;1(4):e36.
A computational model for the mitochondrial respiratory chain that appropriately balances mass, charge, and free energy transduction is introduced and analyzed based on a previously published set of data measured on isolated cardiac mitochondria. The basic components included in the model are the reactions at complexes I, III, and IV of the electron transport system, ATP synthesis at F1F0 ATPase, substrate transporters including adenine nucleotide translocase and the phosphate–hydrogen co-transporter, and cation fluxes across the inner membrane including fluxes through the K+/H+ antiporter and passive H+ and K+ permeation. Estimation of 16 adjustable parameter values is based on fitting model simulations to nine independent data curves. The identified model is further validated by comparison to additional datasets measured from mitochondria isolated from rat heart and liver and observed at low oxygen concentration. To obtain reasonable fits to the available data, it is necessary to incorporate inorganic-phosphate-dependent activation of the dehydrogenase activity and the electron transport system. Specifically, it is shown that a model incorporating phosphate-dependent activation of complex III is able to reasonably reproduce the observed data. The resulting validated and verified model provides a foundation for building larger and more complex systems models and investigating complex physiological and pathophysiological interactions in cardiac energetics.
Cells are able to perform tasks that consume energy (such as producing mechanical force in muscle contraction) by using chemical energy delivered in the form of a chemical compound called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Two Nobel Prizes were awarded (in 1978 to Peter D. Mitchell and in 1997 to Paul D. Boyer and John E. Walker) for the determination of how ATP is synthesized from the components adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and inorganic phosphate in a subcellular body called the mitochondrion. The operating theory, called the chemiosmotic theory, describes how a driving force called the proton motive force, which arises from the sum of contributions from the electrical potential and the hydrogen ion concentration difference across the mitochondrial inner membrane, is developed by reactions catalyzed by certain enzymes and consumed in generating ATP. Yet, to date, no computer model has successfully described the development and consumption of both the chemical and electrical components of the proton motive force in a thermodynamically balanced simulation. Beard introduces such a model, which is extensively validated based on previously published sets of data obtained on isolated mitochondria. The model is used to test hypotheses about how intracellular respiration is regulated; this model could serve as a foundation for investigating the control of mitochondrial function and for developing larger integrated simulations of cellular metabolism.
PMCID: PMC1201326  PMID: 16163394
14.  Aconitase Causes Iron Toxicity in Drosophila pink1 Mutants 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003478.
The PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) is a mitochondrial kinase, and pink1 mutations cause early onset Parkinson's disease (PD) in humans. Loss of pink1 in Drosophila leads to defects in mitochondrial function, and genetic data suggest that another PD-related gene product, Parkin, acts with pink1 to regulate the clearance of dysfunctional mitochondria (mitophagy). Consequently, pink1 mutants show an accumulation of morphologically abnormal mitochondria, but it is unclear if other factors are involved in pink1 function in vivo and contribute to the mitochondrial morphological defects seen in specific cell types in pink1 mutants. To explore the molecular mechanisms of pink1 function, we performed a genetic modifier screen in Drosophila and identified aconitase (acon) as a dominant suppressor of pink1. Acon localizes to mitochondria and harbors a labile iron-sulfur [4Fe-4S] cluster that can scavenge superoxide to release hydrogen peroxide and iron that combine to produce hydroxyl radicals. Using Acon enzymatic mutants, and expression of mitoferritin that scavenges free iron, we show that [4Fe-4S] cluster inactivation, as a result of increased superoxide in pink1 mutants, results in oxidative stress and mitochondrial swelling. We show that [4Fe-4S] inactivation acts downstream of pink1 in a pathway that affects mitochondrial morphology, but acts independently of parkin. Thus our data indicate that superoxide-dependent [4Fe-4S] inactivation defines a potential pathogenic cascade that acts independent of mitophagy and links iron toxicity to mitochondrial failure in a PD–relevant model.
Author Summary
In this work we provide mechanistic insight linking together two of the earliest observations in Parkinson's disease: the excessive build-up of iron in diseased substantia nigra neurons and mitochondrial dysfunction particularly increased reactive oxygen species production at the level of Complex I. We identify aconitase mutants as strong genetic suppressors of Parkinson-related pink1 mutant phenotypes, both at the organismal and at the cellular/mitochondrial level. We show that the mitochondrial dysfunction in pink1 mutants that includes Complex I dysfunction results in superoxide-dependent inactivation of the Aconitase iron-sulfur cluster, leading to the release of iron and peroxide that combine to produce hydroxyl radicals and mitochondrial failure. Consequently, scavenging free iron using expression of mitoferritin or decreasing the levels of aconitase both rescue pink1 mutants; while increased wild-type Aconitase, but not a mutant that does not harbor an iron-sulfur cluster, results in severe mitochondrial defects. Given that reduced electron transport chain activity, increased oxidative stress, and natural iron build-up in the substantia nigra are common factors in sporadic and familial forms of Parkinson's disease, we believe that oxidative inactivation of Aconitase may represent an important pathogenic cascade underlying neuronal dysfunction in Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3636082  PMID: 23637640
15.  Mitochondrial handling of excess Ca2+ is substrate-dependent with implications for reactive oxygen species generation 
The mitochondrial electron transport chain is the major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS) during cardiac ischemia. Several mechanisms modulate ROS production; one is mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake. Here we sought to elucidate the effects of extra-mitochondrial Ca2+ (e[Ca2+]) on ROS production (measured as H2O2 release) from complexes I and III.
Mitochondria, isolated from guinea pig hearts, were pre-incubated with increasing concentrations of CaCl2 and then energized with the complex I substrate Na+-pyruvate or the complex II substrate Na+-succinate. Mitochondrial H2O2 release rates were assessed after giving either rotenone or antimycin A to inhibit complex I or III, respectively. After pyruvate, mitochondria maintained a fully polarized membrane potential (Δψ, assessed using rhodamine 123) and were able to generate NADH (assessed using autofluorescence) even with excess e[Ca2+] (assessed using CaGreen-5N), whereas they remained partially depolarized and did not generate NADH after succinate. This partial Δψ depolarization with succinate was accompanied by a large release of H2O2 (assessed using amplex red/horseradish peroxidase) with later addition of antimycin A. In the presence of excess e[Ca2+], adding cyclosporine A to inhibit mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) opening restored Δψ and significantly decreased antimycin A-induced H2O2 release.
Succinate accumulates during ischemia to become the major substrate utilized by cardiac mitochondria. The inability of mitochondria to maintain a fully polarized Δψ under excess e[Ca2+] when succinate, but not pyruvate, is the substrate may indicate a permeabilization of the mitochondrial membrane which enhances H2O2 emission from complex III during ischemia.
PMCID: PMC3542420  PMID: 23010495
complex III; mitochondrial permeability transition pore; succinate; Ca2+
16.  Mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species Production in Excitable Cells: Modulators of Mitochondrial and Cell Function 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2009;11(6):1373-1414.
The mitochondrion is a major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Superoxide (O2•−) is generated under specific bioenergetic conditions at several sites within the electron-transport system; most is converted to H2O2 inside and outside the mitochondrial matrix by superoxide dismutases. H2O2 is a major chemical messenger that, in low amounts and with its products, physiologically modulates cell function. The redox state and ROS scavengers largely control the emission (generation scavenging) of O2•−. Cell ischemia, hypoxia, or toxins can result in excess O2•− production when the redox state is altered and the ROS scavenger systems are overwhelmed. Too much H2O2 can combine with Fe2+ complexes to form reactive ferryl species (e.g., Fe(IV) = O•). In the presence of nitric oxide (NO•), O2•− forms the reactant peroxynitrite (ONOO−), and ONOOH-induced nitrosylation of proteins, DNA, and lipids can modify their structure and function. An initial increase in ROS can cause an even greater increase in ROS and allow excess mitochondrial Ca2+ entry, both of which are factors that induce cell apoptosis and necrosis. Approaches to reduce excess O2•− emission include selectively boosting the antioxidant capacity, uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation to reduce generation of O2•− by inducing proton leak, and reversibly inhibiting electron transport. Mitochondrial cation channels and exchangers function to maintain matrix homeostasis and likely play a role in modulating mitochondrial function, in part by regulating O2•− generation. Cell-signaling pathways induced physiologically by ROS include effects on thiol groups and disulfide linkages to modify posttranslationally protein structure to activate/inactivate specific kinase/phosphatase pathways. Hypoxia-inducible factors that stimulate a cascade of gene transcription may be mediated physiologically by ROS. Our knowledge of the role played by ROS and their scavenging systems in modulation of cell function and cell death has grown exponentially over the past few years, but we are still limited in how to apply this knowledge to develop its full therapeutic potential. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 11, 1373–1414.
Focus of review
Ambiguities about ROS
Overview of Mitochondrial Structure and Function
Mitochondrial Sources and Mechanism of ROS Generation
Requirement for charged membrane, electron flux, and O2
Reactive and nonreactive O2 species and reactants
Assessing ROS generation
Sites and conditions for mitochondrial ROS generation
Complex I (NADH ubiquinone oxidoreductase)
Complex III (co-enzyme Q, bc1 complex, ubiquinone/cytochrome c reductase)
Pathologic Induction of Mitochondrial ROS Release
ROS-induced ROS release
ROS-induced Ca2+ loading
ROS generation during tissue ischemia and hypoxia
Very low po2 and lack of mitochondrial ROS generation
Antioxidant Defenses Against Pathologic ROS Formation
SODs, catalase, cytochrome c, GSH, and TRXSH2, and other linked redox couples
Regulation of genes encoding mitochondrial antioxidant systems
ROS generation versus ROS scavenging
MPT pore opening and cytochrome c
Targets of Excess ROS Emission
DNA, proteins, and phospholipids
Role of cardiolipin
Approaches to Reduce Excess ROS
Capacity of mitochondrial and cell reductants
Exogenous SODs and catalase
Proton leak to modulate superoxide generation
Uncoupling proteins
HNE-induced proton leak
ROS-induced proton leak
Physiologic Modulation of Mitochondrial ROS Emission
H2O2 and ONOO− as chemical effectors
ROS modulation by cations
K+: A modulator of ROS generation?
Biphasic effect of KCa channels on ROS generation
KATP channel opening and ROS
Direct Ca2+-induced ROS unlikely
Rate of oxidative phosphorylation and ROS generation
Role of ROS in Triggering or Effecting Cardioprotection
Pathways and mechanisms
Inhibiting complex I and cardioprotection
Regulation of Cellular Processes by Mitochondria-Derived ROS
Cell signaling by oxidative modifications and redox systems
Examples of signaling by ROS
Importance of cysteine thiols in ROS-induced signaling
ROS oxidation reactions
O2 sensors
Hypoxia-inducible factors
ROS as O2 sensors
Peroxide-induced TCA shunts
Difficulties in understanding the role of ROS
Future directions
PMCID: PMC2842133  PMID: 19187004
17.  Reversible inactivation of dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase by mitochondrial hydrogen peroxide 
Free radical research  2012;47(2):123-133.
Under oxidative stress conditions, mitochondria are the major site for cellular production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as superoxide anion and H2O2 that can attack numerous mitochondrial proteins including dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase (DLDH). While DLDH is known to be vulnerable to oxidative inactivation, the mechanisms have not been clearly elucidated. The present study was therefore designed to investigate the mechanisms of DLDH oxidative inactivation by mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS). Mitochondria, isolated from rat brain, were incubated with mitochondrial respiratory substrates such as pyruvate/malate or succinate in the presence of electron transport chain inhibitors such as rotenone or antimycin A. This is followed by enzyme activity assay and gel-based proteomic analysis. The present study also examined whether ROS-induced DLDH oxidative inactivation could be reversed by reducing reagents such as DTT, cysteine, and glutathione. Results show that DLDH could only be inactivated by complex III- but not complex I-derived ROS; and the accompanying loss of activity due to the inactivation could be restored by cysteine and glutathione, indicating that DLDH oxidative inactivation by complex III-derived ROS was a reversible process. Further studies using catalase indicate that it was H2O2 instead of superoxide anion that was responsible for DLDH inactivation. Moreover, using sulfenic acid-specific labeling techniques in conjunction with two-dimensional Western blot analysis, we show that protein sulfenic acid formation (also known as sulfenation) was associated with the loss of DLDH enzymatic activity observed under our experimental conditions. Additionally, such oxidative modification was shown to be associated with preventing DLDH from further inactivation by the thiol-reactive reagent N-ethylmaleimide. Taken together, the present study provides insights into the mechanisms of DLDH oxidative inactivation by mitochondrial H2O2.
PMCID: PMC3690130  PMID: 23205777
brain; dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase; H2O2; mitochondria; reactive oxygen species; reversible inactivation; sulfenic acid; sulfenation
18.  Peroxynitrite formation in nitric oxide-exposed submitochondrial particles: Detection, oxidative damage and catalytic removal by Mn-porphyrins 
Peroxynitrite (ONOO−) formation in mitochondria may be favored due to the constant supply of superoxide radical (O2•−) by the electron transport chain plus the facile diffusion of nitric oxide (•NO) to this organelle. Herein, a model system of submitochondrial particles (SMP) in the presence of succinate plus the respiratory inhibitor antimycin A (to increase O2•− rates) and the •NO-donor NOC-7 was studied to directly establish and quantitate peroxynitrite by a multiplicity of methods including chemiluminescence, fluorescence and immunochemical analysis. While all the tested probes revealed peroxynitrite at near stoichiometric levels with respect to its precursor radicals, coumarin boronic acid (a probe that directly reacts with peroxynitrite) had the more straightforward oxidation profile from O2•−-forming SMP as a function of the •NO flux. Interestingly, immunospintrapping studies verified protein radical generation in SMP by peroxynitrite. Substrate-supplemented SMP also reduced Mn(III)porphyrins (MnP) to Mn(II)P under physiologically-relevant oxygen levels (3–30 μM); then, Mn(II)P were capable to reduce peroxynitrite and protect SMP from the inhibition of complex I-dependent oxygen consumption and protein radical formation and nitration of membranes. The data directly support the formation of peroxynitrite in mitochondria and demonstrate that MnP can undergo a catalytic redox cycle to neutralize peroxynitrite-dependent mitochondrial oxidative damage.
PMCID: PMC3534903  PMID: 23142682
Mitochondrial oxidative stress; submitochondrial particles; manganese porphyrin; free radicals; superoxide radical-antioxidants
19.  Caloric restriction influences hydrogen peroxide generation in mitochondrial sub-populations from mouse liver 
Calorie restriction (CR) has been shown to decrease H2O2 production in liver mitochondria, although it is not known if this is due to uniform changes in all mitochondria or changes in particular mitochondrial subpopulations. To address this issue, liver mitochondria from control and CR mice were fractionated using differential centrifugation at 1,000 g, 3,000 g and 10,000 g into distinct populations labeled as M1, M3 and M10, respectively. Mitochondrial protein levels, respiration and H2O2 production were measured in each fraction. CR resulted in a decrease in total protein (mg) in each fraction, although this difference disappeared when adjusted for liver weight (mg protein/g liver weight). No differences in respiration (State 3 or 4) were observed between control and CR mice in any of the mitochondrial fractions. CR decreased H2O2 production in all fractions when mitochondria respired on succinate (Succ), succ+antimycin A (Succ+AA) or pyruvate/ malate+rotenone (P/M+ROT). Thus, CR decreased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production under conditions which stimulate mitochondrial complex I ROS production under both forward (P/M+ROT) and backward (Succ & Succ+AA) electron flow. The results indicate that CR decreases H2O2 production in all liver mitochondrial fractions due to a decrease in capacity for ROS production by complex I of the electron transport chain.
PMCID: PMC3131738  PMID: 21505800
Mitochondria; Caloric restriction; Reactive oxygen species; Hydrogen peroxide; Respiration; Mouse liver
20.  Acquisition of Chemoresistance in Gliomas Is Associated with Increased Mitochondrial Coupling and Decreased ROS Production 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24665.
Temozolomide (TMZ) is an alkylating agent used for treating gliomas. Chemoresistance is a severe limitation to TMZ therapy; there is a critical need to understand the underlying mechanisms that determine tumor response to TMZ. We recently reported that chemoresistance to TMZ is related to a remodeling of the entire electron transport chain, with significant increases in the activity of complexes II/III and cytochrome c oxidase (CcO). Moreover, pharmacologic and genetic manipulation of CcO reverses chemoresistance. Therefore, to test the hypothesis that TMZ-resistance arises from tighter mitochondrial coupling and decreased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), we have assessed mitochondrial function in TMZ-sensitive and -resistant glioma cells, and in TMZ-resistant glioblastoma multiform (GBM) xenograft lines (xenolines). Maximum ADP-stimulated (state 3) rates of mitochondrial oxygen consumption were greater in TMZ-resistant cells and xenolines, and basal respiration (state 2), proton leak (state 4), and mitochondrial ROS production were significantly lower in TMZ-resistant cells. Furthermore, TMZ-resistant cells consumed less glucose and produced less lactic acid. Chemoresistant cells were insensitive to the oxidative stress induced by TMZ and hydrogen peroxide challenges, but treatment with the oxidant L-buthionine-S,R-sulfoximine increased TMZ-dependent ROS generation and reversed chemoresistance. Importantly, treatment with the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine inhibited TMZ-dependent ROS generation in chemosensitive cells, preventing TMZ toxicity. Finally, we found that mitochondrial DNA-depleted cells (ρ°) were resistant to TMZ and had lower intracellular ROS levels after TMZ exposure compared with parental cells. Repopulation of ρ° cells with mitochondria restored ROS production and sensitivity to TMZ. Taken together, our results indicate that chemoresistance to TMZ is linked to tighter mitochondrial coupling and low ROS production, and suggest a novel mitochondrial ROS-dependent mechanism underlying TMZ-chemoresistance in glioma. Thus, perturbation of mitochondrial functions and changes in redox status might constitute a novel strategy for sensitizing glioma cells to therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC3170372  PMID: 21931801
21.  Elucidation of the effects of lipoperoxidation on the mitochondrial electron transport chain using yeast mitochondria with manipulated fatty acid content 
Lipoperoxidative damage to the respiratory chain proteins may account for disruption in mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) function and could lead to an augment in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). To test this hypothesis, we investigated the effects of lipoperoxidation on ETC function and cytochromes spectra of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondria. We compared the effects of Fe2+ treatment on mitochondria isolated from yeast with native (lipoperoxidation-resistant) and modified (lipoperoxidation-sensitive) fatty acid composition. Augmented sensitivity to oxidative stress was observed in the complex III-complex IV segment of the ETC. Lipoperoxidation did not alter the cytochromes content. Under lipoperoxidative conditions, cytochrome c reduction by succinate was almost totally eliminated by superoxide dismutase and stigmatellin. Our results suggest that lipoperoxidation impairs electron transfer mainly at cytochrome b in complex III, which leads to increased resistance to antimycin A and ROS generation due to an electron leak at the level of the QO site of complex III.
PMCID: PMC2922399  PMID: 19224349
Lipoperoxidation; Cytochromes; Yeast mitochondria; Iron; Electron transport chain
22.  Excess NO Predisposes Mitochondrial Succinate-Cytochrome c Reductase to Produce Hydroxyl Radical† 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2011;1807(5):491-502.
Mitochondria–derived oxygen free radical(s) are important mediators of oxidative cellular injury. It is widely hypothesized that excess NO enhances O2•− generated by mitochondria under certain pathological conditions. In the mitochondrial electron transport chain, succinate-cytochrome c reductase (SCR) catalyzes the electron transfer reaction from succinate to cytochrome c. To gain the insights into the molecular mechanism of how NO overproduction may mediate the oxygen free radical generation by SCR, we employed isolated SCR, cardiac myoblast H9c2, and endothelial cells to study the interaction of NO with SCR in vitro and ex vivo. Under the conditions of enzyme turnover in the presence of NO donor (DEANO), SCR gained pro-oxidant function for generating hydroxyl radical as detected by EPR spin trapping using DEPMPO. The EPR signal associated with DEPMPO/•OH adduct was nearly completely abolished in the presence of catalase or an iron chelator and partially inhibited by SOD, suggesting the involvement of the iron-H2O2 dependent Fenton reaction or O2•−–dependent Haber-Weiss mechanism. Direct EPR measurement of SCR at 77 °K indicated the formation of a nonheme iron-NO complex, implying that electron leakage to molecular oxygen was enhanced at the FAD cofactor, and that excess NO predisposed SCR to produce •OH. In H9c2 cells, SCR dependent oxygen free radical generation was stimulated by NO released from DEANO or produced by the cells following exposure to hypoxia/reoxygenation. With shear exposure that led to overproduction of NO by the endothelium, SCR mediated oxygen free radical production was also detected in cultured vascular endothelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3698227  PMID: 21406178
Mitochondria; Electron Transport Chain; SCR; NO; Hydroxyl Radical; EPR Spin Trapping
23.  Calorie Restriction Increases Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Healthy Humans 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e76.
Caloric restriction without malnutrition extends life span in a range of organisms including insects and mammals and lowers free radical production by the mitochondria. However, the mechanism responsible for this adaptation are poorly understood.
Methods and Findings
The current study was undertaken to examine muscle mitochondrial bioenergetics in response to caloric restriction alone or in combination with exercise in 36 young (36.8 ± 1.0 y), overweight (body mass index, 27.8 ± 0.7 kg/m2) individuals randomized into one of three groups for a 6-mo intervention: Control, 100% of energy requirements; CR, 25% caloric restriction; and CREX, caloric restriction with exercise (CREX), 12.5% CR + 12.5% increased energy expenditure (EE). In the controls, 24-h EE was unchanged, but in CR and CREX it was significantly reduced from baseline even after adjustment for the loss of metabolic mass (CR, −135 ± 42 kcal/d, p = 0.002 and CREX, −117 ± 52 kcal/d, p = 0.008). Participants in the CR and CREX groups had increased expression of genes encoding proteins involved in mitochondrial function such as PPARGC1A, TFAM, eNOS, SIRT1, and PARL (all, p < 0.05). In parallel, mitochondrial DNA content increased by 35% ± 5% in the CR group (p = 0.005) and 21% ± 4% in the CREX group (p < 0.004), with no change in the control group (2% ± 2%). However, the activity of key mitochondrial enzymes of the TCA (tricarboxylic acid) cycle (citrate synthase), beta-oxidation (beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase), and electron transport chain (cytochrome C oxidase II) was unchanged. DNA damage was reduced from baseline in the CR (−0.56 ± 0.11 arbitrary units, p = 0.003) and CREX (−0.45 ± 0.12 arbitrary units, p = 0.011), but not in the controls. In primary cultures of human myotubes, a nitric oxide donor (mimicking eNOS signaling) induced mitochondrial biogenesis but failed to induce SIRT1 protein expression, suggesting that additional factors may regulate SIRT1 content during CR.
The observed increase in muscle mitochondrial DNA in association with a decrease in whole body oxygen consumption and DNA damage suggests that caloric restriction improves mitochondrial function in young non-obese adults.
Anthony Civitarese and colleagues observed an increase in mitochondrial DNA in muscle and a decrease in whole body oxygen consumption in healthy adults who underwent caloric restriction.
Editors' Summary
Life expectancy (the average life span) greatly increased during the 20th century in most countries, largely due to improved hygiene, nutrition, and health care. One possible approach to further increase human life span is “caloric restriction.” A calorie-restricted diet provides all the nutrients necessary for a healthy life but minimizes the energy (calories) supplied in the diet. This type of diet increases the life span of mice and delays the onset of age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. There are also hints that people who eat a calorie-restricted diet might live longer than those who overeat. People living in Okinawa, Japan, have a lower energy intake than the rest of the Japanese population and an extremely long life span. In addition, calorie-restricted diets beneficially affect several biomarkers of aging, including decreased insulin sensitivity (a precursor to diabetes). But how might caloric restriction slow aging? A major factor in the age-related decline of bodily functions is the accumulation of “oxidative damage” in the body's proteins, fats, and DNA. Oxidants—in particular, chemicals called “free radicals”—are produced when food is converted to energy by cellular structures called mitochondria. One theory for how caloric restriction slows aging is that it lowers free-radical production by inducing the formation of efficient mitochondria.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite hints that caloric restriction might have similar effects in people as in rodents, there have been few well-controlled studies on the effect of good quality calorie-reduced diets in healthy people. It is also unknown whether an energy deficit produced by increasing physical activity while eating the same amount of food has the same effects as caloric restriction. Finally, it is unclear how caloric restriction alters mitochondrial function. The Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) organization is investigating the effect of caloric restriction interventions on physiology, body composition, and risk factors for age-related diseases. In this study, the researchers have tested the hypothesis that short-term caloric deficit (with or without exercise) increases the efficiency of mitochondria in human muscle.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 36 healthy overweight but non-obese young people into their study. One-third of them received 100% of their energy requirements in their diet; the caloric restriction (CR) group had their calorie intake reduced by 25%; and the caloric restriction plus exercise (CREX) group had their calorie intake reduced by 12.5% and their energy expenditure increased by 12.5%. The researchers found that a 25% caloric deficit for six months, achieved by diet alone or by diet plus exercise, decreased 24-hour whole body energy expenditure (i.e., overall calories burned for body function), which suggests improved mitochondrial function. Their analysis of genes involved in mitochondria formation indicated that CR and CREX both increased the number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle. Both interventions also reduced the amount of DNA damage—a marker of oxidative stress—in the participants' muscles.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results indicate that a short-term caloric deficit, whether achieved by diet or by diet plus exercise, induces the formation of “efficient mitochondria” in people just as in rodents. The induction of these efficient mitochondria in turn reduces oxidative damage in skeletal muscles. Consequently, this adaptive response to caloric restriction might have the potential to slow aging and increase longevity in humans as in other animals. However, this six-month study obviously provides no direct evidence for this, and, by analogy with studies in rodents, an increase in longevity might require lifelong caloric restriction. The results here suggest that even short-term caloric restriction can produce beneficial physiological changes, but more research is necessary before it becomes clear whether caloric restriction should be recommended to healthy individuals.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The CALERIE (Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy) Web site contains information on the study and how to participate
American Federation for Aging Research includes information on aging with pages on the biology of aging and on caloric restriction
The Okinawa Centenarian Study is a population-based study on long-lived elderly people in Okinawa, Japan
US Government information on nutrition
MedlinePlus encyclopedia pages on diet and calories
The Calorie Restriction Society, a nonprofit organization that provides information on life span and caloric restriction
Wikipedia pages on calorie restriction and on mitochondria (note: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1808482  PMID: 17341128
24.  Energy, ageing, fidelity and sex: oocyte mitochondrial DNA as a protected genetic template 
Oxidative phosphorylation couples ATP synthesis to respiratory electron transport. In eukaryotes, this coupling occurs in mitochondria, which carry DNA. Respiratory electron transport in the presence of molecular oxygen generates free radicals, reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are mutagenic. In animals, mutational damage to mitochondrial DNA therefore accumulates within the lifespan of the individual. Fertilization generally requires motility of one gamete, and motility requires ATP. It has been proposed that oxidative phosphorylation is nevertheless absent in the special case of quiescent, template mitochondria, that these remain sequestered in oocytes and female germ lines and that oocyte mitochondrial DNA is thus protected from damage, but evidence to support that view has hitherto been lacking. Here we show that female gametes of Aurelia aurita, the common jellyfish, do not transcribe mitochondrial DNA, lack electron transport, and produce no free radicals. In contrast, male gametes actively transcribe mitochondrial genes for respiratory chain components and produce ROS. Electron microscopy shows that this functional division of labour between sperm and egg is accompanied by contrasting mitochondrial morphology. We suggest that mitochondrial anisogamy underlies division of any animal species into two sexes with complementary roles in sexual reproduction. We predict that quiescent oocyte mitochondria contain DNA as an unexpressed template that avoids mutational accumulation by being transmitted through the female germ line. The active descendants of oocyte mitochondria perform oxidative phosphorylation in somatic cells and in male gametes of each new generation, and the mutations that they accumulated are not inherited. We propose that the avoidance of ROS-dependent mutation is the evolutionary pressure underlying maternal mitochondrial inheritance and the developmental origin of the female germ line.
PMCID: PMC3685464  PMID: 23754815
cytoplasmic inheritance; maternal inheritance; Aurelia aurita; mitochondrial genome; oxidative phosphorylation; aging; Weismann barrier
25.  Mitochondrial proton and electron leaks 
Essays in biochemistry  2010;47:53-67.
Mitochondrial proton and electron leak have a major impact on mitochondrial coupling efficiency and production of reactive oxygen species. In the first part of this chapter, we address the molecular nature of the basal and inducible proton leak pathways, and their physiological importance. The basal leak is unregulated, and a major proportion can be attributed to mitochondrial anion carriers, while the proton leak through the lipid bilayer appears to be minor. The basal proton leak is cell-type specific and correlates with metabolic rate. The inducible leak through the adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT) and uncoupling proteins (UCPs) can be activated by fatty acids, superoxide, or peroxidation products. The physiological role of inducible leak through UCP1 in mammalian brown adipose tissue is heat production, whereas the roles of non-mammalian UCP1 and its paralogous proteins, in particular UCP2 and UCP3, are not yet resolved. The second part of the chapter focuses on the electron leak that occurs in the mitochondrial electron transport chain. Exit of electrons prior to the reduction of oxygen to water at cytochrome c oxidase causes the production of superoxide. As the mechanisms of electron leak are crucial to understanding their physiological relevance, we summarize the mechanisms and topology of electron leak from Complex I and III in studies using isolated mitochondria. We also highlight recent progress and challenges of assessing electron leak in the living cell. Finally, we emphasise the importance of proton and electron leak as therapeutic targets in body weight regulation and insulin secretion.
PMCID: PMC3122475  PMID: 20533900
Proton leak; electron leak; uncoupling; reactive oxygen species; superoxide; basal proton leak; adenine nucleotide translocase; uncoupling protein; ucp; superoxide; brown adipose tissue; mitochondrial anion carriers; insulin secretion; obesity; aging; semiquinone radical; DNP; GSIS; beta cells

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