A New Pathway of Mitochondria-mediated Cell Death

Mitochondria are multifunctional organelles whose dysfunction leads to neuromuscular degeneration and ageing. The multi-functionality poses a great challenge for understanding the mechanisms by which mitochondrial dysfunction causes specific pathologies.
Among the leading mitochondrial mediators of cell death are energy depletion, free radical production, defects in iron–sulfur cluster biosynthesis, the release of pro-apoptotic and non-cell-autonomous signalling molecules, and altered stress signalling.
Authors in the journal Nature identify a new pathway of mitochondria-mediated cell death in yeast. This pathway was named mitochondrial precursor over-accumulation stress (mPOS), and is characterized by aberrant accumulation of mitochondrial precursors in the cytosol.
They also discover a large network of genes that suppress mPOS, by modulating ribosomal biogenesis, messenger RNA decapping, transcript-specific translation, protein chaperoning and turnover. In response to mPOS, several ribosome-associated proteins were upregulated, including Gis2 and Nog2, which promote cap-independent translation and inhibit the nuclear export of the 60S ribosomal subunit, respectively.
Gis2 and Nog2 upregulation promotes cell survival, which may be part of a feedback loop that attenuates mPOS. The data indicate that mitochondrial dysfunction contributes directly to cytosolic proteostatic stress, and provide an explanation for the association between these two hallmarks of degenerative diseases and ageing.
The results are relevant to understanding diseases (for example, spinocerebellar ataxia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and myotonic dystrophy) that involve mutations within the anti-degenerative network.