The loss of LRPPRC function induces the mitochondrial unfolded protein response
The inactivation of the LRPPRC gene, which has previously been associated with the neurodegenerative French Canadian Leigh Syndrome, results in a decrease in the production of mitochondria-encoded subunits of complex IV, thereby causing a reduction in complex IV activity. Previously we have shown that reducing complex IV activity triggers a compensatory and conserved mitochondrial hyperfusion response. We now demonstrate that LRPPRC knock-down in mammalian cells leads to an imbalance between mitochondria-encoded and nuclear-encoded subunits of complex IV and that this imbalance triggers the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt). The inactivation of the LRPPRC-like gene mma-1 in C. elegans also induces UPRmt, which demonstrates that this response is conserved. Furthermore, we provide evidence that mitochondrial hyperfusion and UPRmt are coordinated but mediated by genetically distinct pathways. We propose that in the context of LRPPRC mma-1 knock-down, mitochondrial hyperfusion helps to transiently maintain mitochondrial ATP production while UPRmt participates in the restoration of mitochondrial proteostasis. Mitochondrial proteostasis is not only critical in pathophysiology but also during aging, as proteotoxic stress has been shown to increase with age. Therefore, we speculate that the coordination of these two mitochondrial stress responses plays a more global role in mitochondrial proteostasis.