Broken Mitochondria Use ‘Eat Me’ Proteins To Summon Their Executioners




From Eureka Alert.

When mitochondria become damaged, they avoid causing further problems by signaling cellular proteins to degrade them. In a paper publishing April 11, 2019, in the journal Developmental Cell, scientists in Norway report that they have discovered how the cells trigger this process, which is called mitophagy. In cells with broken mitochondria, two proteins–NIPSNAP 1 and NIPSNAP 2–accumulate on the mitochondrial surface, functioning as “eat me” signals, recruiting the cellular machinery that will destroy them.

NIPSNAP 1 and 2 are normally found inside healthy mitochondria, although their function inside the cell is unknown. “When a cell’s respiration chain is disrupted, and the mitochondria are damaged, import of these proteins into the matrix and inner membrane space of the mitochondria is interrupted,” says senior author Anne Simonsen, a professor at the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences of the University of Oslo. “In that case, the import system does not function and they remain bound to the surface of the damaged mitochondria signaling for mitophagy.”


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