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1.  Loss of Macroautophagy Promotes or Prevents Fibroblast Apoptosis Depending on the Death Stimulus*S◆ 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;283(8):4766-4777.
Macroautophagy has been implicated as a mechanism of cell death. However, the relationship between this degradative pathway and cell death is unclear as macroautophagy has been shown recently to protect against apoptosis. To better define the inter-play between these two critical cellular processes, we determined whether inhibition of macroautophagy could have both pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic effects in the same cell. Embryonic fibroblasts from mice with a knock-out of the essential macroautophagy gene atg5 were treated with activators of the extrinsic and intrinsic death pathways. Loss of macroautophagy sensitized these cells to caspase-dependent apoptosis from the death receptor ligands Fas and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Atg5−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts had increased activation of the mitochondrial death pathway in response to Fas/TNF-α in concert with decreased ATP levels. Fas/TNF-α treatment failed to up-regulate macroautophagy, and in fact, decreased activity at late time points. In contrast to their sensitization to Fas/TNF-α, Atg5−/− cells were resistant to death from menadione and UV light. In the absence of macroautophagy, an up-regulation of chaperone-mediated autophagy induced resistance to these stressors. These results demonstrate that inhibition of macroautophagy can promote or prevent apoptosis in the same cell and that the response is governed by the nature of the death stimulus and compensatory changes in other forms of autophagy. Experimental findings that an inhibition of macroautophagy blocks apoptosis do not prove that autophagy mediates cell death as this effect may result from the protective up-regulation of other autophagic pathways such as chaperone-mediated autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2754125  PMID: 18073215
2.  Mitophagy in neurodegeneration and aging 
Frontiers in Genetics  2012;3:297.
Macroautophagy is a cellular catabolic process that involves the sequestration of cytoplasmic constituents into double-membrane vesicles known as autophagosomes, which subsequently fuse with lysosomes, where they deliver their cargo for degradation. The main physiological role of autophagy is to recycle intracellular components, under conditions of nutrient deprivation, so as to supply cells with vital materials and energy. Selective autophagy also takes place in nutrient-rich conditions to rid the cell of damaged organelles or protein aggregates that would otherwise compromise cell viability. Mitophagy is a selective type of autophagy, whereby damaged or superfluous mitochondria are eliminated to maintain proper mitochondrial numbers and quality control. While mitophagy shares key regulatory factors with the general macroautophagy pathway, it also involves distinct steps, specific for mitochondrial elimination. Recent findings indicate that parkin and the phosphatase and tensin homolog-induced putative kinase protein 1 (PINK1), which have been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, also regulate mitophagy and function to maintain mitochondrial homeostasis. Here, we survey the molecular mechanisms that govern the process of mitophagy and discuss its involvement in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases during aging.
PMCID: PMC3525948  PMID: 23267366
aging; autophagy; neuron; mitochondria; mitophagy; neurodegeneration; parkin; PINK1
3.  Loss of Prohibitin Membrane Scaffolds Impairs Mitochondrial Architecture and Leads to Tau Hyperphosphorylation and Neurodegeneration 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(11):e1003021.
Fusion and fission of mitochondria maintain the functional integrity of mitochondria and protect against neurodegeneration, but how mitochondrial dysfunctions trigger neuronal loss remains ill-defined. Prohibitins form large ring complexes in the inner membrane that are composed of PHB1 and PHB2 subunits and are thought to function as membrane scaffolds. In Caenorhabditis elegans, prohibitin genes affect aging by moderating fat metabolism and energy production. Knockdown experiments in mammalian cells link the function of prohibitins to membrane fusion, as they were found to stabilize the dynamin-like GTPase OPA1 (optic atrophy 1), which mediates mitochondrial inner membrane fusion and cristae morphogenesis. Mutations in OPA1 are associated with dominant optic atrophy characterized by the progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells, highlighting the importance of OPA1 function in neurons. Here, we show that neuron-specific inactivation of Phb2 in the mouse forebrain causes extensive neurodegeneration associated with behavioral impairments and cognitive deficiencies. We observe early onset tau hyperphosphorylation and filament formation in the hippocampus, demonstrating a direct link between mitochondrial defects and tau pathology. Loss of PHB2 impairs the stability of OPA1, affects mitochondrial ultrastructure, and induces the perinuclear clustering of mitochondria in hippocampal neurons. A destabilization of the mitochondrial genome and respiratory deficiencies manifest in aged neurons only, while the appearance of mitochondrial morphology defects correlates with tau hyperphosphorylation in the absence of PHB2. These results establish an essential role of prohibitin complexes for neuronal survival in vivo and demonstrate that OPA1 stability, mitochondrial fusion, and the maintenance of the mitochondrial genome in neurons depend on these scaffolding proteins. Moreover, our findings establish prohibitin-deficient mice as a novel genetic model for tau pathologies caused by a dysfunction of mitochondria and raise the possibility that tau pathologies are associated with other neurodegenerative disorders caused by deficiencies in mitochondrial dynamics.
Author Summary
Mitochondria are the major site of cellular ATP production and are essential for the survival of neurons. High ATP levels are required to sustain neuronal activities and axonal transport of macromolecules and organelles. The functional integrity of mitochondria depends on fusion and fission of their membranes, which maintain a dynamic mitochondrial network in cells. Interference with these processes causes neurodegenerative disorders that are characterized by axonal degeneration of distinct neurons. However, how an impaired fusion affects mitochondrial activities and neuronal survival remains poorly understood. Here, we have addressed this question by analyzing forebrain-specific knockout mice lacking prohibitins. Prohibitin complexes form membrane scaffolds in the inner membrane, which we now show are required for mitochondrial fusion, ultrastructure, and genome stability in neurons. Loss of prohibitins triggers extensive neurodegeneration associated with behavioral and cognitive deficiencies. Surprisingly, we observe hyperphosphorylation and filament formation of the microtubule-associated protein tau, reminiscent of a large group of neurodegenerative disorders termed tauopathies. Our findings, therefore, not only provide new insight into how defects in mitochondrial fusion affect neuronal survival, but also point to an intimate relationship of deficiencies in mitochondrial dynamics and tau pathologies.
PMCID: PMC3493444  PMID: 23144624
4.  Together we are stronger 
Autophagy  2011;7(12):1568-1569.
Starvation induces a protective process of self-cannibalization called autophagy that is thought to mediate nonselective degradation of cytoplasmic material. We recently reported that mitochondria escape autophagosomal degradation through extensive fusion into mitochondrial networks upon certain starvation conditions. The extent of mitochondrial elongation is dependent on the type of nutrient deprivation, with amino acid depletion having a particularly strong effect. Downregulation of the mitochondrial fission protein Drp1 was determined to be important in bringing about starvation-induced mitochondrial fusion. The formation of mitochondrial networks during nutrient depletion selectively blocked their autophagic degradation, presumably allowing cells to sustain efficient ATP production and thereby survive starvation.
PMCID: PMC3327623  PMID: 22024745
autophagy; Drp1; fission; fusion; mitochondria; PKA; starvation
5.  Optimal Dynamics for Quality Control in Spatially Distributed Mitochondrial Networks 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(7):e1003108.
Recent imaging studies of mitochondrial dynamics have implicated a cycle of fusion, fission, and autophagy in the quality control of mitochondrial function by selectively increasing the membrane potential of some mitochondria at the expense of the turnover of others. This complex, dynamical system creates spatially distributed networks that are dependent on active transport along cytoskeletal networks and on protein import leading to biogenesis. To study the relative impacts of local interactions between neighboring mitochondria and their reorganization via transport, we have developed a spatiotemporal mathematical model encompassing all of these processes in which we focus on the dynamics of a health parameter meant to mimic the functional state of mitochondria. In agreement with previous models, we show that both autophagy and the generation of membrane potential asymmetry following a fusion/fission cycle are required for maintaining a healthy mitochondrial population. This health maintenance is affected by mitochondrial density and motility primarily through changes in the frequency of fusion events. Health is optimized when the selectivity thresholds for fusion and fission are matched, providing a mechanistic basis for the observed coupling of the two processes through the protein OPA1. We also demonstrate that the discreteness of the components exchanged during fusion is critical for quality control, and that the effects of limiting total amounts of autophagy and biogenesis have distinct consequences on health and population size, respectively. Taken together, our results show that several general principles emerge from the complexity of the quality control cycle that can be used to focus and interpret future experimental studies, and our modeling framework provides a road-map for deconstructing the functional importance of local interactions in communities of cells as well as organelles.
Author Summary
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of eukaryotic cells, oxidizing glucose to produce ATP. Most cells harbor tens to hundreds of mitochondria in a constant state of flux, in which they fuse with one another, undergo fission, import proteins to grow larger, and eventually are recycled by autophagy. These dynamic processes depend on the electrical potential that is maintained across the mitochondrial inner membrane and powers the production of both ATP and detrimental reactive oxygen species. How do mitochondria maintain high membrane potential in the face of damage due to reactive oxygen species? Here, we develop a model to study how the reorganization of mitochondrial networks in space and time due to fusion, fission, and the experimentally observed development of membrane potential asymmetry after fission affect overall mitochondrial health. We show that health, which is a proxy for the mitochondrial membrane potential, is dominated by how density and motility affect the frequency of fusion events, and that several simple rules for the system kinetics lead to optimal quality control. This model predicts general behaviors that can be applied to specific studies of mitochondrial dynamics in a wide variety of cell types, and provides a framework for deconstructing complex organellar organization and their function in human disease.
PMCID: PMC3708874  PMID: 23874166
6.  Francisella tularensis Harvests Nutrients Derived via ATG5-Independent Autophagy to Support Intracellular Growth 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003562.
Francisella tularensis is a highly virulent intracellular pathogen that invades and replicates within numerous host cell types including macrophages, hepatocytes and pneumocytes. By 24 hours post invasion, F. tularensis replicates up to 1000-fold in the cytoplasm of infected cells. To achieve such rapid intracellular proliferation, F. tularensis must scavenge large quantities of essential carbon and energy sources from the host cell while evading anti-microbial immune responses. We found that macroautophagy, a eukaryotic cell process that primarily degrades host cell proteins and organelles as well as intracellular pathogens, was induced in F. tularensis infected cells. F. tularensis not only survived macroautophagy, but optimal intracellular bacterial growth was found to require macroautophagy. Intracellular growth upon macroautophagy inhibition was rescued by supplying excess nonessential amino acids or pyruvate, demonstrating that autophagy derived nutrients provide carbon and energy sources that support F. tularensis proliferation. Furthermore, F. tularensis did not require canonical, ATG5-dependent autophagy pathway induction but instead induced an ATG5-independent autophagy pathway. ATG5-independent autophagy induction caused the degradation of cellular constituents resulting in the release of nutrients that the bacteria harvested to support bacterial replication. Canonical macroautophagy limits the growth of several different bacterial species. However, our data demonstrate that ATG5-independent macroautophagy may be beneficial to some cytoplasmic bacteria by supplying nutrients to support bacterial growth.
Author Summary
Francisella tularensis is a highly virulent bacterial pathogen that infects hundreds of different animal species including humans. During infection, F. tularensis bacteria invade and rapidly multiply inside host cells. Within the host cell environment, basic nutrients that bacteria require for growth are in limited supply, and the majority of nutrients are tied up in complex molecules that are not readily available in forms that can be used by bacteria. In this study we asked and answered a very simple question; how does F. tularensis harvest sufficient carbon and energy sources from the host cell to support rapid intracellular growth? We found that F. tularensis induces a host recycling pathway in infected cells. Thus the host cell degrades nonessential proteins and releases amino acids. F. tularensis harvests the host-derived amino acids to generate energy and build its own more complex molecules. When we inhibited the host recycling pathway, growth of the intracellular bacteria was limited. Therefore, manipulation of host cell metabolism may be a means by which we can control the growth of intracellular bacterial pathogens during infection.
PMCID: PMC3744417  PMID: 23966861
7.  The Mitochondrial Inner Membrane Protein Mitofilin Controls Cristae MorphologyD⃞ 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2005;16(3):1543-1554.
Mitochondria are complex organelles with a highly dynamic distribution and internal organization. Here, we demonstrate that mitofilin, a previously identified mitochondrial protein of unknown function, controls mitochondrial cristae morphology. Mitofilin is enriched in the narrow space between the inner boundary and the outer membranes, where it forms a homotypic interaction and assembles into a large multimeric protein complex. Down-regulation of mitofilin in HeLa cells by using specific small interfering RNA lead to decreased cellular proliferation and increased apoptosis, suggesting abnormal mitochondrial function. Although gross mitochondrial fission and fusion seemed normal, ultrastructural studies revealed disorganized mitochondrial inner membrane. Inner membranes failed to form tubular or vesicular cristae and showed as closely packed stacks of membrane sheets that fused intermittently, resulting in a complex maze of membranous network. Electron microscopic tomography estimated a substantial increase in inner:outer membrane ratio, whereas no cristae junctions were detected. In addition, mitochondria subsequently exhibited increased reactive oxygen species production and membrane potential. Although metabolic flux increased due to mitofilin deficiency, mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation was not increased accordingly. We propose that mitofilin is a critical organizer of the mitochondrial cristae morphology and thus indispensable for normal mitochondrial function.
PMCID: PMC551514  PMID: 15647377
8.  Acidosis overrides oxygen deprivation to maintain mitochondrial function and cell survival 
Nature Communications  2014;5:3550.
Sustained cellular function and viability of high-energy demanding post-mitotic cells rely on the continuous supply of ATP. The utilization of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation for efficient ATP generation is a function of oxygen levels. As such, oxygen deprivation, in physiological or pathological settings, has profound effects on cell metabolism and survival. Here we show that mild extracellular acidosis, a physiological consequence of anaerobic metabolism, can reprogramme the mitochondrial metabolic pathway to preserve efficient ATP production regardless of oxygen levels. Acidosis initiates a rapid and reversible homeostatic programme that restructures mitochondria, by regulating mitochondrial dynamics and cristae architecture, to reconfigure mitochondrial efficiency, maintain mitochondrial function and cell survival. Preventing mitochondrial remodelling results in mitochondrial dysfunction, fragmentation and cell death. Our findings challenge the notion that oxygen availability is a key limiting factor in oxidative metabolism and brings forth the concept that mitochondrial morphology can dictate the bioenergetic status of post-mitotic cells.
In hypoxic conditions, cells depend on anaerobic respiration, which results in extracellular acidosis. Khacho et al. find that acidosis serves a protective function, enhancing mitochondrial respiratory capacity and sustaining ATP synthesis despite limited oxygen availability, by both promoting mitochondrial fusion and inhibiting fission.
PMCID: PMC3988820  PMID: 24686499
9.  Mitochondrial Turnover and Aging of Long-Lived Postmitotic Cells: The Mitochondrial–Lysosomal Axis Theory of Aging 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2010;12(4):503-535.
It is now generally accepted that aging and eventual death of multicellular organisms is to a large extent related to macromolecular damage by mitochondrially produced reactive oxygen species, mostly affecting long-lived postmitotic cells, such as neurons and cardiac myocytes. These cells are rarely or not at all replaced during life and can be as old as the whole organism. The inherent inability of autophagy and other cellular-degradation mechanisms to remove damaged structures completely results in the progressive accumulation of garbage, including cytosolic protein aggregates, defective mitochondria, and lipofuscin, an intralysosomal indigestible material. In this review, we stress the importance of crosstalk between mitochondria and lysosomes in aging. The slow accumulation of lipofuscin within lysosomes seems to depress autophagy, resulting in reduced turnover of effective mitochondria. The latter not only are functionally deficient but also produce increased amounts of reactive oxygen species, prompting lipofuscinogenesis. Moreover, defective and enlarged mitochondria are poorly autophagocytosed and constitute a growing population of badly functioning organelles that do not fuse and exchange their contents with normal mitochondria. The progress of these changes seems to result in enhanced oxidative stress, decreased ATP production, and collapse of the cellular catabolic machinery, which eventually is incompatible with survival. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 12, 503–535.
ROS, Mitochondrial Damage, and Aging
Biomolecular damage under normal conditions
Imperfect turnover of damaged biologic structures
Major targets of ROS attack: mitochondria and lysosomes
Mitochondrial Fusion, Fission, and Biogenesis
The role of mitochondrial dynamics
Mitochondrial fusion
Mitochondrial fission
Mitochondrial biogenesis
Mitochondrial Proteolytic Systems
Mitochondrial Turnover by Autophagy
The main functions of the lysosomal compartment
Autophagic degradation of mitochondria (mitophagy)
Lipofuscin Formation and Its Influence on Autophagy
Influence of labile iron and ROS on lipofuscin formation
Consequences of the nondegradability of lipofuscin
Disease-related accumulation of intralysosomal and extralysosomal waste
Imperfect Mitochondrial Turnover and Postmitotic Cellular Aging
Age-related accumulation of defective mitochondria within postmitotic cells
Age-related decline in autophagy and Lon protease activity accelerates mitochondrial damage
Enlarged mitochondria are resistant to degradation and do not fuse with normal ones
Mechanisms of the age-related accumulation of mitochondria with homoplasmic mtDNA mutations
Decreased mitochondrial biogenesis in aged cells
Summary and Conclusions
PMCID: PMC2861545  PMID: 19650712
10.  Bcl-xL regulates mitochondrial energetics by stabilizing the inner membrane potential 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;195(2):263-276.
To promote cell survival, the antiapoptotic factor Bcl-xL both inhibits Bax-induced mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization and stabilizes mitochondrial inner membrane ion flux and thus overall mitochondrial energetic capacity.
Mammalian Bcl-xL protein localizes to the outer mitochondrial membrane, where it inhibits apoptosis by binding Bax and inhibiting Bax-induced outer membrane permeabilization. Contrary to expectation, we found by electron microscopy and biochemical approaches that endogenous Bcl-xL also localized to inner mitochondrial cristae. Two-photon microscopy of cultured neurons revealed large fluctuations in inner mitochondrial membrane potential when Bcl-xL was genetically deleted or pharmacologically inhibited, indicating increased total ion flux into and out of mitochondria. Computational, biochemical, and genetic evidence indicated that Bcl-xL reduces futile ion flux across the inner mitochondrial membrane to prevent a wasteful drain on cellular resources, thereby preventing an energetic crisis during stress. Given that F1FO–ATP synthase directly affects mitochondrial membrane potential and having identified the mitochondrial ATP synthase β subunit in a screen for Bcl-xL–binding partners, we tested and found that Bcl-xL failed to protect β subunit–deficient yeast. Thus, by bolstering mitochondrial energetic capacity, Bcl-xL may contribute importantly to cell survival independently of other Bcl-2 family proteins.
PMCID: PMC3198165  PMID: 21987637
11.  Mitochondria directly donate their membrane to form autophagosomes during a novel mechanism of parkin-associated mitophagy 
Cell & Bioscience  2014;4:16.
Autophagy (macroautophagy), a cellular process of “self-eating”, segregates damaged/aged organelles into vesicles, fuses with lysosomes, and enables recycling of the digested materials. The precise origin(s) of the autophagosome membrane is unclear and remains a critical but unanswered question. Endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, Golgi complex, and the plasma membrane have been proposed as the source of autophagosomal membranes.
Using electron microscopy, immunogold labeling techniques, confocal microscopy, and flow cytometry we show that mitochondria can directly donate their membrane material to form autophagosomes. We expand upon earlier studies to show that mitochondria donate their membranes to form autophagosomes during basal and drug-induced autophagy. Moreover, electron microscopy and immunogold labeling studies show the first physical evidence of mitochondria forming continuous structures with LC3-labeled autophagosomes. The mitochondria forming these structures also stain positive for parkin, indicating that these mitochondrial-formed autophagosomes represent a novel mechanism of parkin-associated mitophagy.
With the on-going debate regarding autophagosomal membrane origin, this report demonstrates that mitochondria can donate membrane materials to form autophagosomes. These structures may also represent a novel form of mitophagy where the mitochondria contribute to the formation of autophagosomes. This novel form of parkin-associated mitophagy may be a more efficient bio-energetic process compared with de novo biosynthesis of a new membrane, particularly if the membrane is obtained, at least partly, from the organelle being targeted for later degradation in the mature autolysosome.
PMCID: PMC3977894  PMID: 24669863
Breast cancer; Mitochondria; Autophagy; Mitophagy; Parkin; Antiestrogen resistance; Fulvestrant; Imatinib; Estrogen receptor-α
12.  Mitochondrial autophagy in neural function, neurodegenerative disease, neuron cell death, and aging 
Neurobiology of disease  2010;43(1):46-51.
Macroautophagy is a cellular process by which cytosolic components and organelles are degraded in double-membrane bound structures upon fusion with lysosomes. A pathway for selective degradation of mitochondria by autophagy, known as mitophagy, has been described, and is of particular importance to neurons, because of the constant need for high levels of energy production in this cell type. Although much remains to be learned about mitophagy, it appears that the regulation of mitophagy shares key steps with the macroautophagy pathway, while exhibiting distinct regulatory steps specific for mitochondrial autophagic turnover. Mitophagy is emerging as an important pathway in neurodegenerative disease, and has been linked to the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease through the study of recessively inherited forms of this disorder, involving PINK1 and Parkin. Recent work indicates that PINK1 and Parkin together maintain mitochondrial quality control by regulating mitophagy. In the Purkinje cell degeneration (pcd) mouse, altered mitophagy may contribute to the dramatic neuron cell death observed in the cerebellum, suggesting that over-active mitophagy or insufficient mitophagy can both be deleterious. Finally, mitophagy has been linked to aging, as impaired macroautophagy over time promotes mitochondrial dysfunction associated with the aging process. Understanding the role of mitophagy in neural function, neurodegenerative disease, and aging represents an essential goal for future research in the autophagy field.
PMCID: PMC3096708  PMID: 20887789
13.  The inner membrane protein Mdm33 controls mitochondrial morphology in yeast 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2003;160(4):553-564.
Mitochondrial distribution and morphology depend on MDM33, a Saccharomyces cerevisiae gene encoding a novel protein of the mitochondrial inner membrane. Cells lacking Mdm33 contain ring-shaped, mostly interconnected mitochondria, which are able to form large hollow spheres. On the ultrastructural level, these aberrant organelles display extremely elongated stretches of outer and inner membranes enclosing a very narrow matrix space. Dilated parts of Δmdm33 mitochondria contain well-developed cristae. Overexpression of Mdm33 leads to growth arrest, aggregation of mitochondria, and generation of aberrant inner membrane structures, including septa, inner membrane fragments, and loss of inner membrane cristae. The MDM33 gene is required for the formation of net-like mitochondria in mutants lacking components of the outer membrane fission machinery, and mitochondrial fusion is required for the formation of extended ring-like mitochondria in cells lacking the MDM33 gene. The Mdm33 protein assembles into an oligomeric complex in the inner membrane where it performs homotypic protein–protein interactions. Our results indicate that Mdm33 plays a distinct role in the mitochondrial inner membrane to control mitochondrial morphology. We propose that Mdm33 is involved in fission of the mitochondrial inner membrane.
PMCID: PMC2173741  PMID: 12591915
membrane fission; mitochondria; mitochondrial dynamics; organelle morphology; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
14.  Defects in Mitochondrial Fission Protein Dynamin-Related Protein 1 Are Linked to Apoptotic Resistance and Autophagy in a Lung Cancer Model 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45319.
Evasion of apoptosis is implicated in almost all aspects of cancer progression, as well as treatment resistance. In this study, resistance to apoptosis was identified in tumorigenic lung epithelial (A549) cells as a consequence of defects in mitochondrial and autophagic function. Mitochondrial function is determined in part by mitochondrial morphology, a process regulated by mitochondrial dynamics whereby the joining of two mitochondria, fusion, inhibits apoptosis while fission, the division of a mitochondrion, initiates apoptosis. Mitochondrial morphology of A549 cells displayed an elongated phenotype–mimicking cells deficient in mitochondrial fission protein, Dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1). A549 cells had impaired Drp1 mitochondrial recruitment and decreased Drp1-dependent fission. Cytochrome c release and caspase-3 and PARP cleavage were impaired both basally and with apoptotic stimuli in A549 cells. Increased mitochondrial mass was observed in A549 cells, suggesting defects in mitophagy (mitochondrial selective autophagy). A549 cells had decreased LC3-II lipidation and lysosomal inhibition suggesting defects in autophagy occur upstream of lysosomal degradation. Immunostaining indicated mitochondrial localized LC3 punctae in A549 cells increased after mitochondrial uncoupling or with a combination of mitochondrial depolarization and ectopic Drp1 expression. Increased inhibition of apoptosis in A549 cells is correlated with impeded mitochondrial fission and mitophagy. We suggest mitochondrial fission defects contribute to apoptotic resistance in A549 cells.
PMCID: PMC3447926  PMID: 23028930
15.  Mitochondrial autophagy as a compensatory response to PINK1 deficiency 
Autophagy  2009;5(8):1213-1214.
Macroautophagy (hereafter, autophagy) plays a critical role in maintaining cellular homeostasis by degrading protein aggregates and dysfunctional/damaged organelles. We recently reported that silencing the recessive familial Parkinson disease gene encoding PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) leads to neuronal cell death accompanied by mitochondrial dysfunction and Drp1-dependent fragmentation. In this model, mitochondrial fission and Beclin 1-dependent autophagy play protective roles, cooperating to sequester and eliminate damaged mitochondria. We discuss the role of superoxide and other reactive oxygen species upstream of mitochondrial depolarization, fission and autophagy in PINK1 knockdown lines. PINK1 deficiency appears to trigger several compensatory responses that together facilitate clearance of depolarized mitochondria, through a mechanism that is further enhanced by increased expression of parkin. These data offer additional insights that broaden the spectrum of potential interactions between PINK1 and parkin with respect to the regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis and mitophagy.
PMCID: PMC2841445  PMID: 19786829
mitochondria; PINK1; autophagy; cell death; parkinson disease; parkin; beclin 1
16.  Rotenone Inhibits Autophagic Flux Prior to Inducing Cell Death 
ACS Chemical Neuroscience  2012;3(12):1063-1072.
Rotenone, which selectively inhibits mitochondrial complex I, induces oxidative stress, α-synuclein accumulation, and dopaminergic neuron death, principal pathological features of Parkinson's disease. The autophagy–lysosome pathway degrades damaged proteins and organelles for the intracellular maintenance of nutrient and energy balance. While it is known that rotenone causes autophagic vacuole accumulation, the mechanism by which this effect occurs has not been thoroughly investigated. Treatment of differentiated SH-SY5Y cells with rotenone (10 μM) induced the accumulation of autophagic vacuoles at 6 h and 24 h as indicated by Western blot analysis for microtubule associated protein-light chain 3-II (MAP-LC3-II). Assessment of autophagic flux at these time points indicated that autophagic vacuole accumulation resulted from a decrease in their effective lysosomal degradation, which was substantiated by increased levels of autophagy substrates p62 and α-synuclein. Inhibition of lysosomal degradation may be explained by the observed decrease in cellular ATP levels, which in turn may have caused the observed concomitant increase in acidic vesicle pH. The early (6 h) effects of rotenone on cellular energetics and autophagy–lysosome pathway function preceded the induction of cell death and apoptosis. These findings indicate that the classical mitochondrial toxin rotenone has a pronounced effect on macroautophagy completion that may contribute to its neurotoxic potential.
PMCID: PMC3526971  PMID: 23259041
Rotenone; autophagy; lysosome; cell death; Parkinson's disease; SH-SY5Y
17.  ChChd3, an Inner Mitochondrial Membrane Protein, Is Essential for Maintaining Crista Integrity and Mitochondrial Function* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;286(4):2918-2932.
The mitochondrial inner membrane (IM) serves as the site for ATP production by hosting the oxidative phosphorylation complex machinery most notably on the crista membranes. Disruption of the crista structure has been implicated in a variety of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we characterize ChChd3, a previously identified PKA substrate of unknown function (Schauble, S., King, C. C., Darshi, M., Koller, A., Shah, K., and Taylor, S. S. (2007) J. Biol. Chem. 282, 14952–14959), and show that it is essential for maintaining crista integrity and mitochondrial function. In the mitochondria, ChChd3 is a peripheral protein of the IM facing the intermembrane space. RNAi knockdown of ChChd3 in HeLa cells resulted in fragmented mitochondria, reduced OPA1 protein levels and impaired fusion, and clustering of the mitochondria around the nucleus along with reduced growth rate. Both the oxygen consumption and glycolytic rates were severely restricted. Ultrastructural analysis of these cells revealed aberrant mitochondrial IM structures with fragmented and tubular cristae or loss of cristae, and reduced crista membrane. Additionally, the crista junction opening diameter was reduced to 50% suggesting remodeling of cristae in the absence of ChChd3. Analysis of the ChChd3-binding proteins revealed that ChChd3 interacts with the IM proteins mitofilin and OPA1, which regulate crista morphology, and the outer membrane protein Sam50, which regulates import and assembly of β-barrel proteins on the outer membrane. Knockdown of ChChd3 led to almost complete loss of both mitofilin and Sam50 proteins and alterations in several mitochondrial proteins, suggesting that ChChd3 is a scaffolding protein that stabilizes protein complexes involved in maintaining crista architecture and protein import and is thus essential for maintaining mitochondrial structure and function.
PMCID: PMC3024787  PMID: 21081504
Bioenergetics; Confocal Microscopy; Electron Microscopy (EM); Mitochondria; Protein-Protein Interactions; ChChd3; Crista Junctions; Crista Morphology; Mitochondrial Dynamics; Protein Import
18.  Modulation of mitochondrial function and morphology by interaction of Omi/HtrA2 with the mitochondrial fusion factor OPA1 
Experimental Cell Research  2010;316(7):1213-1224.
Loss of Omi/HtrA2 function leads to nerve cell loss in mouse models and has been linked to neurodegeneration in Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. Omi/HtrA2 is a serine protease released as a pro-apoptotic factor from the mitochondrial intermembrane space into the cytosol. Under physiological conditions, Omi/HtrA2 is thought to be involved in protection against cellular stress, but the cytological and molecular mechanisms are not clear. Omi/HtrA2 deficiency caused an accumulation of reactive oxygen species and reduced mitochondrial membrane potential. In Omi/HtrA2 knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts, as well as in Omi/HtrA2 silenced human HeLa cells and Drosophila S2R+ cells, we found elongated mitochondria by live cell imaging. Electron microscopy confirmed the mitochondrial morphology alterations and showed abnormal cristae structure. Examining the levels of proteins involved in mitochondrial fusion, we found a selective up-regulation of more soluble OPA1 protein. Complementation of knockout cells with wild-type Omi/HtrA2 but not with the protease mutant [S306A]Omi/HtrA2 reversed the mitochondrial elongation phenotype and OPA1 alterations. Finally, co-immunoprecipitation showed direct interaction of Omi/HtrA2 with endogenous OPA1. Thus, we show for the first time a direct effect of loss of Omi/HtrA2 on mitochondrial morphology and demonstrate a novel role of this mitochondrial serine protease in the modulation of OPA1. Our results underscore a critical role of impaired mitochondrial dynamics in neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC3063334  PMID: 20064504
ANT, adenine nucleotide translocator; Drp1, dynamin-related protein 1; Fis1, mitochondrial fission 1 protein; Hsp90, heat shock protein 90; HtrA2, high temperature requirement protein A2; KO, knockout; MEF, mouse embryonic fibroblast; Mfn2, mitofusin 2; MMP, mitochondrial membrane potential; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; PD, Parkinson's disease; ROS, reactive oxygen species; SD, standard deviation; SEM, standard error of the mean; VDAC1, voltage dependent anion channel 1; WT, wild-type; Omi; HtrA2; Mitochondria; Fusion; OPA1; Parkinson's disease
19.  Prohibitin 1 Modulates Mitochondrial Stress-Related Autophagy in Human Colonic Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31231.
Autophagy is an adaptive response to extracellular and intracellular stress by which cytoplasmic components and organelles, including damaged mitochondria, are degraded to promote cell survival and restore cell homeostasis. Certain genes involved in autophagy confer susceptibility to Crohn's disease. Reactive oxygen species and pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), both of which are increased during active inflammatory bowel disease, promote cellular injury and autophagy via mitochondrial damage. Prohibitin (PHB), which plays a role in maintaining normal mitochondrial respiratory function, is decreased during active inflammatory bowel disease. Restoration of colonic epithelial PHB expression protects mice from experimental colitis and combats oxidative stress. In this study, we investigated the potential role of PHB in modulating mitochondrial stress-related autophagy in intestinal epithelial cells.
We measured autophagy activation in response to knockdown of PHB expression by RNA interference in Caco2-BBE and HCT116 WT and p53 null cells. The effect of exogenous PHB expression on TNFα- and IFNγ-induced autophagy was assessed. Autophagy was inhibited using Bafilomycin A1 or siATG16L1 during PHB knockdown and the affect on intracellular oxidative stress, mitochondrial membrane potential, and cell viability were determined. The requirement of intracellular ROS in siPHB-induced autophagy was assessed using the ROS scavenger N-acetyl-L-cysteine.
TNFα and IFNγ-induced autophagy inversely correlated with PHB protein expression. Exogenous PHB expression reduced basal autophagy and TNFα-induced autophagy. Gene silencing of PHB in epithelial cells induces mitochondrial autophagy via increased intracellular ROS. Inhibition of autophagy during PHB knockdown exacerbates mitochondrial depolarization and reduces cell viability.
Decreased PHB levels coupled with dysfunctional autophagy renders intestinal epithelial cells susceptible to mitochondrial damage and cytotoxicity. Repletion of PHB may represent a therapeutic approach to combat oxidant and cytokine-induced mitochondrial damage in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.
PMCID: PMC3281932  PMID: 22363587
20.  Stepwise Assembly of Dimeric F1Fo-ATP Synthase in Mitochondria Involves the Small Fo-Subunits k and i 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(9):1494-1504.
Oligomerization of F1Fo-ATP synthase in the inner mitochondrial membrane governs the formation of cristae membrane domains. We show that the F1Fo-subunits Su i and Su k are crucial for the formation and maturation of ATP synthase dimers and oligomers. Su i additionally facilitates the incorporation of new subunits into ATP synthase monomers.
F1Fo-ATP synthase is a key enzyme of oxidative phosphorylation that is localized in the inner membrane of mitochondria. It uses the energy stored in the proton gradient across the inner mitochondrial membrane to catalyze the synthesis of ATP from ADP and phosphate. Dimeric and higher oligomeric forms of ATP synthase have been observed in mitochondria from various organisms. Oligomerization of ATP synthase is critical for the morphology of the inner mitochondrial membrane because it supports the generation of tubular cristae membrane domains. Association of individual F1Fo-ATP synthase complexes is mediated by the membrane-embedded Fo-part. Several subunits were mapped to monomer-monomer-interfaces of yeast ATP synthase complexes, but only Su e (Atp21) and Su g (Atp20) have so far been identified as crucial for the formation of stable dimers. We show that two other small Fo-components, Su k (Atp19) and Su i (Atp18) are involved in the stepwise assembly of F1Fo-ATP synthase dimers and oligomers. We have identified an intermediate form of the ATP synthase dimer, which accumulates in the absence of Su i. Moreover, our data indicate that Su i facilitates the incorporation of newly synthesized subunits into ATP synthase complexes.
PMCID: PMC2861609  PMID: 20219971
21.  Effects of Fcj1-Mos1 and mitochondrial division on aggregation of mitochondrial DNA nucleoids and organelle morphology 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(12):1842-1851.
Mitochondrial DNA nucleoids are distributed as many discrete foci in mitochondria. Nucleoid distribution is controlled by mitochondrial division and Fcj1 and Mos1, two evolutionarily conserved, mitochondrial proteins that maintain cristae junctions and tubular organelle morphology.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is packaged into DNA–protein complexes called nucleoids, which are distributed as many small foci in mitochondria. Nucleoids are crucial for the biogenesis and function of mtDNA. Here, using a yeast genetic screen for components that control nucleoid distribution and size, we identify Fcj1 and Mos1, two evolutionarily conserved mitochondrial proteins that maintain the connection between the cristae and boundary membranes. These two proteins are also important for establishing tubular morphology of mitochondria, as mitochondria lacking Fcj1 and Mos1 form lamellar sheets. We find that nucleoids aggregate, increase in size, and decrease in number in fcj1∆ and mos1∆ cells. In addition, Fcj1 form punctate structures and localized adjacent to nucleoids. Moreover, connecting mitochondria by deleting the DNM1 gene required for organelle division enhances aggregation of mtDNA nucleoids in fcj1∆ and mos1∆ cells, whereas single deletion of DNM1 does not affect nucleoids. Conversely, deleting F1Fo-ATP synthase dimerization factors generates concentric ring-like cristae, restores tubular mitochondrial morphology, and suppresses nucleoid aggregation in these mutants. Our findings suggest an unexpected role of Fcj1-Mos1 and organelle division in maintaining the distribution and size of mtDNA nucleoids.
PMCID: PMC3681690  PMID: 23615445
22.  Upregulated autophagy protects cardiomyocytes from oxidative stress-induced toxicity 
Autophagy  2013;9(3):328-344.
Autophagy is a cellular self-digestion process that mediates protein quality control and serves to protect against neurodegenerative disorders, infections, inflammatory diseases and cancer. Current evidence suggests that autophagy can selectively remove damaged organelles such as the mitochondria. Mitochondria-induced oxidative stress has been shown to play a major role in a wide range of pathologies in several organs, including the heart. Few studies have investigated whether enhanced autophagy can offer protection against mitochondrially-generated oxidative stress. We induced mitochondrial stress in cardiomyocytes using antimycin A (AMA), which increased mitochondrial superoxide generation, decreased mitochondrial membrane potential and depressed cellular respiration. In addition, AMA augmented nuclear DNA oxidation and cell death in cardiomyocytes. Interestingly, although oxidative stress has been proposed to induce autophagy, treatment with AMA did not result in stimulation of autophagy or mitophagy in cardiomyocytes. Our results showed that the MTOR inhibitor rapamycin induced autophagy, promoted mitochondrial clearance and protected cardiomyocytes from the cytotoxic effects of AMA, as assessed by apoptotic marker activation and viability assays in both mouse atrial HL-1 cardiomyocytes and human ventricular AC16 cells. Importantly, rapamycin improved mitochondrial function, as determined by cellular respiration, mitochondrial membrane potential and morphology analysis. Furthermore, autophagy induction by rapamycin suppressed the accumulation of ubiquitinylated proteins induced by AMA. Inhibition of rapamycin-induced autophagy by pharmacological or genetic interventions attenuated the cytoprotective effects of rapamycin against AMA. We propose that rapamycin offers cytoprotection against oxidative stress by a combined approach of removing dysfunctional mitochondria as well as by degrading damaged, ubiquitinated proteins. We conclude that autophagy induction by rapamycin could be utilized as a potential therapeutic strategy against oxidative stress-mediated damage in cardiomyocytes.
PMCID: PMC3590254  PMID: 23298947
oxidative stress; mitochondrial dysfunction; autophagy; cardiomyocytes; rapamycin; MTOR
23.  Mitochondrial Networking Protects β-Cells From Nutrient-Induced Apoptosis 
Diabetes  2009;58(10):2303-2315.
Previous studies have reported that β-cell mitochondria exist as discrete organelles that exhibit heterogeneous bioenergetic capacity. To date, networking activity, and its role in mediating β-cell mitochondrial morphology and function, remains unclear. In this article, we investigate β-cell mitochondrial fusion and fission in detail and report alterations in response to various combinations of nutrients.
Using matrix-targeted photoactivatable green fluorescent protein, mitochondria were tagged and tracked in β-cells within intact islets, as isolated cells and as cell lines, revealing frequent fusion and fission events. Manipulations of key mitochondrial dynamics proteins OPA1, DRP1, and Fis1 were tested for their role in β-cell mitochondrial morphology. The combined effects of free fatty acid and glucose on β-cell survival, function, and mitochondrial morphology were explored with relation to alterations in fusion and fission capacity.
β-Cell mitochondria are constantly involved in fusion and fission activity that underlies the overall morphology of the organelle. We find that networking activity among mitochondria is capable of distributing a localized green fluorescent protein signal throughout an isolated β-cell, a β-cell within an islet, and an INS1 cell. Under noxious conditions, we find that β-cell mitochondria become fragmented and lose their ability to undergo fusion. Interestingly, manipulations that shift the dynamic balance to favor fusion are able to prevent mitochondrial fragmentation, maintain mitochondrial dynamics, and prevent apoptosis.
These data suggest that alterations in mitochondrial fusion and fission play a critical role in nutrient-induced β-cell apoptosis and may be involved in the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2750232  PMID: 19581419
24.  Organelle-cytoskeletal interactions: actin mutations inhibit meiosis-dependent mitochondrial rearrangement in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1995;6(10):1381-1396.
During early stages of meiosis I, yeast mitochondria fuse to form a single continuous thread. Thereafter, portions of the mitochondrial thread are equally distributed to daughter cells. Using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy and a membrane potential sensing dye, mitochondria are resolved as small particles at the cell periphery in pre-meiotic, living yeast. These organelles display low levels of movement. During meiosis I, we observed a threefold increase in mitochondrial motility. Mitochondrial movements were linear, occurred at a maximum velocity of 25 +/- 6.7 nm/s, and resulted in organelle collision and fusion to form elongated tubular structures. Mitochondria do not co-localize with microtubules. Destabilization of microtubules by nocodazole treatment has no significant effect on the rate and extent of thread formation. In contrast, yeast bearing temperature-sensitive mutations in the actin-encoding ACT1 gene (act1-3 and act1-133) exhibit abnormal mitochondrial aggregation, fragmentation, and enlargement as well as loss of mitochondrial motility. In act1-3 cells, mitochondrial defects and actin delocalization occur only at restrictive temperatures. The act1-133 mutation, which perturbs the myosin-binding site of actin without significantly affecting actin cytoskeletal structure in meiotic yeast, results in mitochondrial morphology and motility defects at restrictive and permissive temperatures. These studies support a role for the actin cytoskeleton in the control of mitochondrial position and movements in meiotic yeast.
PMCID: PMC301294  PMID: 8573793
25.  Hepatitis B Virus Disrupts Mitochondrial Dynamics: Induces Fission and Mitophagy to Attenuate Apoptosis 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(12):e1003722.
Human hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes chronic hepatitis and is associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. HBV infection alters mitochondrial metabolism. The selective removal of damaged mitochondria is essential for the maintenance of mitochondrial and cellular homeostasis. Here, we report that HBV shifts the balance of mitochondrial dynamics toward fission and mitophagy to attenuate the virus-induced apoptosis. HBV induced perinuclear clustering of mitochondria and triggered mitochondrial translocation of the dynamin-related protein (Drp1) by stimulating its phosphorylation at Ser616, leading to mitochondrial fission. HBV also stimulated the gene expression of Parkin, PINK1, and LC3B and induced Parkin recruitment to the mitochondria. Upon translocation to mitochondria, Parkin, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, underwent self-ubiquitination and facilitated the ubiquitination and degradation of its substrate Mitofusin 2 (Mfn2), a mediator of mitochondrial fusion. In addition to conventional immunofluorescence, a sensitive dual fluorescence reporter expressing mito-mRFP-EGFP fused in-frame to a mitochondrial targeting sequence was employed to observe the completion of the mitophagic process by delivery of the engulfed mitochondria to lysosomes for degradation. Furthermore, we demonstrate that viral HBx protein plays a central role in promoting aberrant mitochondrial dynamics either when expressed alone or in the context of viral genome. Perturbing mitophagy by silencing Parkin led to enhanced apoptotic signaling, suggesting that HBV-induced mitochondrial fission and mitophagy promote cell survival and possibly viral persistence. Altered mitochondrial dynamics associated with HBV infection may contribute to mitochondrial injury and liver disease pathogenesis.
Author Summary
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) chronic infections represent the common cause for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Mitochondrial liver injury has been long recognized as one of the consequences of HBV infection during chronic hepatitis. Mitochondria are dynamic organelles that undergo fission, fusion, and selective-autophagic removal (mitophagy), in their pursuit to maintain mitochondrial homeostasis and meet cellular energy requirements. The clearance of damaged mitochondria is essential for the maintenance of mitochondrial and cellular homeostasis. We observed that HBV and its encoded HBx protein promoted mitochondrial fragmentation (fission) and mitophagy. HBV/HBx induced the expression and Ser616 phosphorylation of dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1) and its subsequent translocation to the mitochondria, resulting in enhanced mitochondrial fragmentation. HBV also promoted the mitochondrial translocation of Parkin, a cytosolic E3 ubiquitin ligase, and subsequent mitophagy. Perturbation of mitophagy in HBV-infected cells resulted in enhanced mitochondrial apoptotic signaling. This shift of the mitochondrial dynamics towards enhanced fission and mitophagy is essential for the clearance of damaged mitochondria and serves to prevent apoptotic cell death of HBV-infected cells to facilitate persistent infection.
PMCID: PMC3855539  PMID: 24339771

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