Mitophagy plays an essential role in reducing mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species and mutation of mitochondrial DNA by maintaining mitochondrial quantity and quality in yeast

Yusuke Kurihara, Tomotake Kanki, Yoshimasa Aoki, Yuko Hirota, Tetsu Saigusa, Takeshi Uchiumi, Dongchon Kang
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2012 January 27, 287 (5): 3265-72
In mammalian cells, the autophagy-dependent degradation of mitochondria (mitophagy) is thought to maintain mitochondrial quality by eliminating damaged mitochondria. However, the physiological importance of mitophagy has not been clarified in yeast. Here, we investigated the physiological role of mitophagy in yeast using mitophagy-deficient atg32- or atg11-knock-out cells. When wild-type yeast cells in respiratory growth encounter nitrogen starvation, mitophagy is initiated, excess mitochondria are degraded, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production from mitochondria is suppressed; as a result, the mitochondria escape oxidative damage. On the other hand, in nitrogen-starved mitophagy-deficient yeast, excess mitochondria are not degraded and the undegraded mitochondria spontaneously age and produce surplus ROS. The surplus ROS damage the mitochondria themselves and the damaged mitochondria produce more ROS in a vicious circle, ultimately leading to mitochondrial DNA deletion and the so-called "petite-mutant" phenotype. Cells strictly regulate mitochondrial quantity and quality because mitochondria produce both necessary energy and harmful ROS. Mitophagy contributes to this process by eliminating the mitochondria to a basal level to fulfill cellular energy requirements and preventing excess ROS production.

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