Frataxin is a nuclear-encoded mitochondrial protein involved in the biogenesis of Fe-S-cluster-containing proteins and consequently in the functionality of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Similar to other proteins that regulate mitochondrial respiration, severe frataxin deficiency leads to pathology in humans - Friedreich's ataxia, a life-threatening neurodegenerative disorder - and to developmental arrest in the nematode C. elegans. Interestingly, partial frataxin depletion extends C. elegans lifespan, and a similar anti-aging effect is prompted by reduced expression of other mitochondrial regulatory proteins from yeast to mammals. The beneficial adaptive responses to mild mitochondrial stress are still largely unknown and, if characterized, may suggest novel potential targets for the treatment of human mitochondria-associated, age-related disorders. Here we identify mitochondrial autophagy as an evolutionarily conserved response to frataxin silencing, and show for the first time that, similar to mammals, mitophagy is activated in C. elegans in response to mitochondrial stress in a pdr-1/Parkin-, pink-1/Pink-, and dct-1/Bnip3-dependent manner. The induction of mitophagy is part of a hypoxia-like, iron starvation response triggered upon frataxin depletion and causally involved in animal lifespan extension. We also identify non-overlapping hif-1 upstream (HIF-1-prolyl-hydroxylase) and downstream (globins) regulatory genes mediating lifespan extension upon frataxin and iron depletion. Our findings indicate that mitophagy induction is part of an adaptive iron starvation response induced as a protective mechanism against mitochondrial stress, thus suggesting novel potential therapeutic strategies for the treatment of mitochondrial-associated, age-related disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)