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Concept: Mitochondrion


Among terrestrial arthropods, the dragonfly species Pantala flavescens is remarkable due to their nearly global distribution and extensive migratory ranges; the largest of any known insect. Capable of migrating across oceans, the potential for high rates of gene flow among geographically distant populations is significant. It has been hypothesized that P. flavescens may be a global panmictic population but no sufficient genetic evidence has been collected thus far. Through a population genetic analysis of P. flavescens samples from North America, South America, and Asia, the current study aimed to examine the extent at which gene flow is occurring on a global scale and discusses the implications of the genetic patterns we uncovered on population structure and genetic diversity of the species. This was accomplished using PCR-amplified cytochrome oxidase one (CO1) mitochondrial DNA data to reconstruct phylogenetic trees, a haplotype network, and perform molecular variance analyses. Our results suggested high rates of gene flow are occurring among all included geographic regions; providing the first significant evidence that Pantala flavescens should be considered a global panmictic population.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Mitochondrion, Horizontal gene transfer, Population genetics


Etiology of aberrant social behavior consistently points to a strong polygenetic component involved in fundamental developmental pathways, with the potential of being enhanced by defects in bioenergetics. To this end, the occurrence of social deficits and mitochondrial outcomes were evaluated in conditional Pten (Phosphatase and tensin homolog) haplo-insufficient mice, in which only one allele was selectively knocked-out in neural tissues. Pten mutations have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and syndromic autism spectrum disorders, among others. By 4-6 weeks of age, Pten insufficiency resulted in the increase of several mitochondrial Complex activities (II-III, IV and V) not accompanied by increases in mitochondrial mass, consistent with an activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway, of which Pten is a negative modulator. At 8-13 weeks of age, Pten haplo-insufficient mice did not show significant behavioral abnormalities or changes in mitochondrial outcomes, but by 20-29 weeks, they displayed aberrant social behavior (social avoidance, failure to recognize familiar mouse, and repetitive self-grooming), macrocephaly, increased oxidative stress, decreased cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) activity (50%) and increased mtDNA deletions in cerebellum and hippocampus. Mitochondrial dysfunction was the result of a downregulation of p53-signaling pathway evaluated by lower protein expression of p21 (65% of controls) and the CCO chaperone SCO2 (47% of controls), two p53-downstream targets. This mechanism was confirmed in Pten-deficient striatal neurons and, HCT 116 cells with different p53 gene dosage. These results suggest a unique pathogenic mechanism of the Pten-p53 axis in mice with aberrant social behavior: loss of Pten (via p53) impairs mitochondrial function elicited by an early defective assembly of CCO and later enhanced by the accumulation of mtDNA deletions. Consistent with our results, (i) SCO2 deficiency and/or CCO activity defects have been reported in patients with learning disabilities including autism and (ii) mutated proteins in ASD have been found associated with p53-signaling pathways.

Concepts: Gene, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Autism, P53, Electron transport chain, Cytochrome c, PTEN


MtDNA mutator mice exhibit marked features of premature aging. We find that these mice treated from age of ≈100 days with the mitochondria-targeted antioxidant SkQ1 showed a delayed appearance of traits of aging such as kyphosis, alopecia, lowering of body temperature, body weight loss, as well as ameliorated heart, kidney and liver pathologies. These effects of SkQ1 are suggested to be related to an alleviation of the effects of an enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) level in mtDNA mutator mice: the increased mitochondrial ROS released due to mitochondrial mutations probably interact with polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiolipin, releasing malondialdehyde and 4-hydroxynonenal that form protein adducts and thus diminishes mitochondrial functions. SkQ1 counteracts this as it scavenges mitochondrial ROS. As the results, the normal mitochondrial ultrastructure is preserved in liver and heart; the phosphorylation capacity of skeletal muscle mitochondria as well as the thermogenic capacity of brown adipose tissue is also improved. The SkQ1-treated mice live significantly longer (335 versus 290 days). These data may be relevant in relation to treatment of mitochondrial diseases particularly and the process of aging in general.

Concepts: Oxygen, Nutrition, Mitochondrion, Obesity, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species, Muscle, Ageing


Ionizing radiation-induced oxidative stress is attributed to generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) due to radiolysis of water molecules and is short lived. Persistent oxidative stress has also been observed after radiation exposure and is implicated in the late effects of radiation. The goal of this study was to determine if long-term oxidative stress in freshly isolated mouse intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) is dependent on radiation quality at a dose relevant to fractionated radiotherapy. Mice (C57BL/6J; 6 to 8 weeks; female) were irradiated with 2 Gy of γ-rays, a low-linear energy transfer (LET) radiation, and intestinal tissues and IEC were collected 1 year after radiation exposure. Intracellular ROS, mitochondrial function, and antioxidant activity in IEC were studied by flow cytometry and biochemical assays. Oxidative DNA damage, cell death, and mitogenic activity in IEC were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Effects of γ radiation were compared to (56)Fe radiation (iso-toxic dose: 1.6 Gy; energy: 1000 MeV/nucleon; LET: 148 keV/µm), we used as representative of high-LET radiation, since it’s one of the important sources of high Z and high energy (HZE) radiation in cosmic rays. Radiation quality affected the level of persistent oxidative stress with higher elevation of intracellular ROS and mitochondrial superoxide in high-LET (56)Fe radiation compared to unirradiated controls and γ radiation. NADPH oxidase activity, mitochondrial membrane damage, and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential were greater in (56)Fe-irradiated mice. Compared to γ radiation oxidative DNA damage was higher, cell death ratio was unchanged, and mitotic activity was increased after (56)Fe radiation. Taken together our results indicate that long-term functional dysregulation of mitochondria and increased NADPH oxidase activity are major contributing factors towards heavy ion radiation-induced persistent oxidative stress in IEC with potential for neoplastic transformation.

Concepts: Oxygen, Bacteria, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Cell biology, Oxidative stress, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species


Cytochrome c oxidase is a member of the haem copper oxidase superfamily (HCO). HCOs function as the terminal enzymes in the respiratory chain of mitochondria and aerobic prokaryotes, coupling molecular oxygen reduction to transmembrane proton pumping. Integral to the enzyme’s function is the transfer of electrons from cytochrome c to the oxidase via a transient association of the two proteins. Electron entry and exit are proposed to occur from the same site on cytochrome c. Here we report the crystal structure of the caa3-type cytochrome oxidase from Thermus thermophilus, which has a covalently tethered cytochrome c domain. Crystals were grown in a bicontinuous mesophase using a synthetic short-chain monoacylglycerol as the hosting lipid. From the electron density map, at 2.36 Å resolution, a novel integral membrane subunit and a native glycoglycerophospholipid embedded in the complex were identified. Contrary to previous electron transfer mechanisms observed for soluble cytochrome c, the structure reveals the architecture of the electron transfer complex for the fused cupredoxin/cytochrome c domain, which implicates different sites on cytochrome c for electron entry and exit. Support for an alternative to the classical proton gate characteristic of this HCO class is presented.

Concepts: Electron, Bacteria, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Mitochondrion, Cellular respiration, Cytochrome c, Cytochrome c oxidase


Abnormal vascularization of solid tumours results in the development of microenvironments deprived of oxygen and nutrients that harbour slowly growing and metabolically stressed cells. Such cells display enhanced resistance to standard chemotherapeutic agents and repopulate tumours after therapy. Here we identify the small molecule VLX600 as a drug that is preferentially active against quiescent cells in colon cancer 3-D microtissues. The anticancer activity is associated with reduced mitochondrial respiration, leading to bioenergetic catastrophe and tumour cell death. VLX600 shows enhanced cytotoxic activity under conditions of nutrient starvation. Importantly, VLX600 displays tumour growth inhibition in vivo. Our findings suggest that tumour cells in metabolically compromised microenvironments have a limited ability to respond to decreased mitochondrial function, and suggest a strategy for targeting the quiescent populations of tumour cells for improved cancer treatment.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Oncology, Mitochondrion, Cellular respiration, Benign tumor, Tumor, Neoplasm


Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an unculturable pathogen with an exceptionally eroded genome. The high level of inactivation of gene function in M. leprae, including many genes in its metabolic pathways, has led to a dependence on host energy production and nutritional products. We hypothesized that host cellular powerhouse–the mitochondria–may affect host susceptibility to M. leprae and the onset of clinical leprosy, and this may be reflected by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) background and mtDNA copy number.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Human genome, Organism, Mitochondrion, Mycobacterium leprae


Extracellular and intraneuronal accumulation of amyloid-beta aggregates has been demonstrated to be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the precise mechanism of amyloid-beta neurotoxicity is not completely understood. Previous studies suggest that binding of amyloid-beta to a number of macromolecules has deleterious effects on cellular functions. Mitochondria were found to be the target for amyloid-beta, and mitochondrial dysfunction is well documented in AD. In the present study we have shown for the first time that Aβ 1-42 bound to a peptide comprising the amino-terminal region of cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1. Phage clone, selected after screening of a human brain cDNA library expressed on M13 phage and bearing a 61 amino acid fragment of cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1, bound to Aβ 1-42 in ELISA as well as to Aβ aggregates present in AD brain. Aβ 1-42 and cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 co-immunoprecipitated from mitochondrial fraction of differentiated human neuroblastoma cells. Likewise, molecular dynamics simulation of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 and the Aβ 1-42 peptide complex resulted in a reliable helix-helix interaction, supporting the experimental results. The interaction between Aβ 1-42 and cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 may explain, in part, the diminished enzymatic activity of respiratory chain complex IV and subsequent neuronal metabolic dysfunction observed in AD.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Cellular respiration, Electron transport chain, Cytochrome c, Cytochrome c oxidase


Pre-eclampsia (PE), a severe pregnancy-specific disease characterized by the new onset of hypertension, proteinuria, edema, and a series of other systematic disorders, is a state of widespread mitochondrial dysfunction of the placenta.

Concepts: Mitochondrion, Proteomics, Placenta, Pre-eclampsia


Limited uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation could be beneficial for cells by preventing excessive generation of reactive oxygen species. Typical uncouplers are weak organic acids capable of permeating across membranes with a narrow gap between efficacy and toxicity. Aimed at designing a nontoxic uncoupler, the protonatable amino acid residue Glu was substituted for Val at the N-terminus of the pentadecapeptide gramicidin A (gA). The modified peptide [Glu1]gA exhibited high uncoupling activity in isolated mitochondria, in particular, abolishing membrane potential at the inner mitochondrial membrane with the same or even larger efficacy as gA. With mitochondria in cell culture, the depolarizing activity of [Glu1]gA was observed at concentrations by an order of magnitude lower than those of gA. On the contrary, [Glu1]gA was much less potent in forming proton channels in planar lipid bilayers than gA. Remarkably, at uncoupling concentrations, [Glu1]gA did not alter cell morphology and was nontoxic in MTT test, in contrast to gA showing high toxicity. The difference in the behavior of [Glu1]gA and gA in natural and artificial membranes could be ascribed to increased capability of [Glu1]gA to permeate through membranes and/or redistribute between different membranes. Based on the protective role of mild uncoupling, [Glu1]gA and some other proton-conducting gA analogues may be considered as prototypes of prospective therapeutic agents.

Concepts: Protein, Oxygen, Acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species