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Concept: Oxidative phosphorylation


In endothermic species, heat released as a product of metabolism ensures stable internal temperature throughout the organism, despite varying environmental conditions. Mitochondria are major actors in this thermogenic process. Part of the energy released by the oxidation of respiratory substrates drives ATP synthesis and metabolite transport, but a substantial proportion is released as heat. Using a temperature-sensitive fluorescent probe targeted to mitochondria, we measured mitochondrial temperature in situ under different physiological conditions. At a constant external temperature of 38 °C, mitochondria were more than 10 °C warmer when the respiratory chain (RC) was fully functional, both in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells and primary skin fibroblasts. This differential was abolished in cells depleted of mitochondrial DNA or treated with respiratory inhibitors but preserved or enhanced by expressing thermogenic enzymes, such as the alternative oxidase or the uncoupling protein 1. The activity of various RC enzymes was maximal at or slightly above 50 °C. In view of their potential consequences, these observations need to be further validated and explored by independent methods. Our study prompts a critical re-examination of the literature on mitochondria.

Concepts: DNA, Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration


Glyphosate tolerant genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 was assessed as ‘substantially equivalent’ to its isogenic counterpart by a nutrient composition analysis in order to be granted market approval. We have applied contemporary in depth molecular profiling methods of NK603 maize kernels (sprayed or unsprayed with Roundup) and the isogenic corn to reassess its substantial equivalence status. Proteome profiles of the maize kernels revealed alterations in the levels of enzymes of glycolysis and TCA cycle pathways, which were reflective of an imbalance in energy metabolism. Changes in proteins and metabolites of glutathione metabolism were indicative of increased oxidative stress. The most pronounced metabolome differences between NK603 and its isogenic counterpart consisted of an increase in polyamines including N-acetyl-cadaverine (2.9-fold), N-acetylputrescine (1.8-fold), putrescine (2.7-fold) and cadaverine (28-fold), which depending on context can be either protective or a cause of toxicity. Our molecular profiling results show that NK603 and its isogenic control are not substantially equivalent.

Concepts: Protein, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Antioxidant, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, Glycolysis


Depressive disorders often run in families, which, in addition to the genetic component, may point to the microbiome as a causative agent. Here, we employed a combination of behavioral, molecular and computational techniques to test the role of the microbiota in mediating despair behavior. In chronically stressed mice displaying despair behavior, we found that the microbiota composition and the metabolic signature dramatically change. Specifically, we observed reduced Lactobacillus and increased circulating kynurenine levels as the most prominent changes in stressed mice. Restoring intestinal Lactobacillus levels was sufficient to improve the metabolic alterations and behavioral abnormalities. Mechanistically, we identified that Lactobacillus-derived reactive oxygen species may suppress host kynurenine metabolism, by inhibiting the expression of the metabolizing enzyme, IDO1, in the intestine. Moreover, maintaining elevated kynurenine levels during Lactobacillus supplementation diminished the treatment benefits. Collectively, our data provide a mechanistic scenario for how a microbiota player (Lactobacillus) may contribute to regulating metabolism and resilience during stress.

Concepts: Bacteria, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Hydrogen peroxide


Carotenoids constitute a ubiquitous group of isoprenoid pigments. They are very efficient physical quenchers of singlet oxygen and scavengers of other reactive oxygen species. Carotenoids can also act as chemical quenchers undergoing irreversible oxygenation. The molecular mechanisms underlying these reactions are still not fully understood, especially in the context of the anti- and pro-oxidant activity of carotenoids, which, although not synthesized by humans and animals, are also present in their blood and tissues, contributing to a number of biochemical processes. The antioxidant potential of carotenoids is of particular significance to human health, due to the fact that losing antioxidant-reactive oxygen species balance results in “oxidative stress”, a critical factor of the pathogenic processes of various chronic disorders. Data coming from epidemiological studies and clinical trials strongly support the observation that adequate carotenoid supplementation may significantly reduce the risk of several disorders mediated by reactive oxygen species. Here, we would like to highlight the beneficial (protective) effects of dietary carotenoid intake in exemplary widespread modern civilization diseases, i.e., cancer, cardiovascular or photosensitivity disorders, in the context of carotenoids' unique antioxidative properties.

Concepts: Oxygen, Epidemiology, Antioxidant, Oxidative stress, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species, Glutathione, Pro-oxidant


Selective study of the electron transport chain components in living mitochondria is essential for fundamental biophysical research and for the development of new medical diagnostic methods. However, many important details of inter- and intramembrane mitochondrial processes have remained in shadow due to the lack of non-invasive techniques. Here we suggest a novel label-free approach based on the surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to monitor the redox state and conformation of cytochrome c in the electron transport chain in living mitochondria. We demonstrate that SERS spectra of living mitochondria placed on hierarchically structured silver-ring substrates provide exclusive information about cytochrome c behavior under modulation of inner mitochondrial membrane potential, proton gradient and the activity of ATP-synthetase. Mathematical simulation explains the observed enhancement of Raman scattering due to high concentration of electric near-field and large contact area between mitochondria and nanostructured surfaces.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, Electron transport chain, Cytochrome c, Chemiosmosis


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


Metabolic activity is intimately linked to T cell fate and function. Using high-resolution mass spectrometry, we generated dynamic metabolome and proteome profiles of human primary naive T cells following activation. We discovered critical changes in the arginine metabolism that led to a drop in intracellular L-arginine concentration. Elevating L-arginine levels induced global metabolic changes including a shift from glycolysis to oxidative phosphorylation in activated T cells and promoted the generation of central memory-like cells endowed with higher survival capacity and, in a mouse model, anti-tumor activity. Proteome-wide probing of structural alterations, validated by the analysis of knockout T cell clones, identified three transcriptional regulators (BAZ1B, PSIP1, and TSN) that sensed L-arginine levels and promoted T cell survival. Thus, intracellular L-arginine concentrations directly impact the metabolic fitness and survival capacity of T cells that are crucial for anti-tumor responses.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, Metabolic pathway


Cysteine S-nitrosylation is a posttranslational modification by which nitric oxide regulates protein function and signaling. Studies of individual proteins have elucidated specific functional roles for S-nitrosylation, but knowledge of the extent of endogenous S-nitrosylation, the sites that are nitrosylated, and the regulatory consequences of S-nitrosylation remains limited. We used mass spectrometry-based methodologies to identify 1011 S-nitrosocysteine residues in 647 proteins in various mouse tissues. We uncovered selective S-nitrosylation of enzymes participating in glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, tricarboxylic acid cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation, indicating that this posttranslational modification may regulate metabolism and mitochondrial bioenergetics. S-nitrosylation of the liver enzyme VLCAD [very long chain acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) dehydrogenase] at Cys(238), which was absent in mice lacking endothelial nitric oxide synthase, improved its catalytic efficiency. These data implicate protein S-nitrosylation in the regulation of β-oxidation of fatty acids in mitochondria.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, Fatty acid metabolism, Citric acid cycle


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