The reciprocal roles of PARK2 and mitofusins in mitophagy and mitochondrial spheroid formation

Xiao-Ming Yin, Wen-Xing Ding
Autophagy 2013 November 1, 9 (11): 1687-92
Mitochondrial homeostasis is critical to cellular homeostasis, and mitophagy is an important mechanism to eliminate mitochondria that are superfluous or damaged. Multiple events can be involved in the recognition of mitochondria by the phagophore, and the key one is the priming of the mitochondria with specific molecular signatures. PARK2/Parkin is an E3 ligase that can be recruited to depolarized mitochondria and is required for mitophagy caused by respiration uncoupling. PARK2 induces ubiquitination of mitochondrial outer membrane proteins, which are subsequently degraded by the proteasome. Why these PARK2-mediated priming events are necessary for mitophagy to occur is not clear. We propose that they are needed to prevent a default pathway that would be inhibitory to mitophagy. In the default pathway depolarized and fragmented mitochondria undergo a dramatic three-dimensional conformational change to become mitochondrial spheroids. This transformation requires mitofusins; however, PARK2 inhibits this process by causing mitofusin ubiquitination and degradation. The spherical transformation may prevent recognition of the damaged mitochondria by the autophagosome, and PARK2 ensures that no such transformation occurs in order to promote mitophagy. Whether the formed mitochondrial spheroids functionally represent an alternative mitigation to mitophagy or an adverse consequence in the absence of PARK2 has yet to be determined.

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