Yusuke Kurihara, Tomotake Kanki, Y. Aoki
Dec 7, 2011
The Journal of Biological Chemistry
Background: The physiological importance of mitophagy in yeast has been largely unexplored. Results: Mitochondrial DNA deletion frequently occurs in mitophagy-deficient cells during nitrogen starvation because of overproduction of the reactive oxygen species from unregulated mitochondria. Conclusion: Mitophagy prevents excess reactive oxygen species production and mitochondrial DNA mutation. Significance: Our findings provide insight into mitophagy-related disorders such as Parkinson disease. 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.