Activated mitofusin 2 signals mitochondrial fusion, interferes with Bax activation, and reduces susceptibility to radical induced depolarization

Margaret Neuspiel, Rodolfo Zunino, Sandhya Gangaraju, Peter Rippstein, Heidi McBride
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2005 July 1, 280 (26): 25060-70
Mitochondrial fusion in higher eukaryotes requires at least two essential GTPases, Mitofusin 1 and Mitofusin 2 (Mfn2). We have created an activated mutant of Mfn2, which shows increased rates of nucleotide exchange and decreased rates of hydrolysis relative to wild type Mfn2. Mitochondrial fusion is stimulated dramatically within heterokaryons expressing this mutant, demonstrating that hydrolysis is not requisite for the fusion event, and supporting a role for Mfn2 as a signaling GTPase. Although steady-state mitochondrial fusion required the conserved intermembrane space tryptophan residue, this requirement was overcome within the context of the hydrolysis-deficient mutant. Furthermore, the punctate localization of Mfn2 is lost in the dominant active mutants, indicating that these sites are functionally controlled by changes in the nucleotide state of Mfn2. Upon staurosporine-stimulated cell death, activated Bax is recruited to the Mfn2-containing puncta; however, Bax activation and cytochrome c release are inhibited in the presence of the dominant active mutants of Mfn2. The dominant active form of Mfn2 also protected the mitochondria against free radical-induced permeability transition. In contrast to staurosporine-induced outer membrane permeability transition, pore opening induced through the introduction of free radicals was dependent upon the conserved intermembrane space residue. This is the first evidence that Mfn2 is a signaling GTPase regulating mitochondrial fusion and that the nucleotide-dependent activation of Mfn2 concomitantly protects the organelle from permeability transition. The data provide new insights into the critical relationship between mitochondrial membrane dynamics and programmed cell death.

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