PerspectiveCell Biology

Modulating Mitochondrial Intracellular Location as a Redox Signal

Science Signaling  18 Sep 2012:
Vol. 5, Issue 242, pp. pe39
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003386

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Abstract

Mitochondria have various essential functions in metabolism and in determining cell fate during apoptosis. In addition, mitochondria are also important nodes in a number of signaling pathways. For example, mitochondria can modulate signals transmitted by second messengers such as calcium. Because mitochondria are also major sources of reactive oxygen species (ROS), they can contribute to redox signaling—for example, by the production of ROS such as hydrogen peroxide that can reversibly modify cysteine residues and thus the activity of target proteins. Mitochondrial ROS production is thought to play a role in hypoxia signaling by stabilizing the oxygen-sensitive transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor–1α. New evidence has extended the mechanism of mitochondrial redox signaling in cellular responses to hypoxia in interesting and unexpected ways. Hypoxia altered the microtubule-dependent transport of mitochondria so that the organelles accumulated in the perinuclear region, where they increased the intranuclear concentration of ROS. The increased ROS in turn enhanced the expression of hypoxia-sensitive genes such as VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) not by reversibly oxidizing a protein, but by oxidizing DNA sequences in the hypoxia response element of the VEGF promoter. This paper and other recent work suggest a new twist on mitochondrial signaling: that the redistribution of mitochondria within the cell can be a component of regulatory pathways.

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