Loss of Omi/HtrA2 function leads to nerve cell loss in mouse models and has been linked to neurodegeneration in Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. Omi/HtrA2 is a serine protease released as a pro-apoptotic factor from the mitochondrial intermembrane space into the cytosol. Under physiological conditions, Omi/HtrA2 is thought to be involved in protection against cellular stress, but the cytological and molecular mechanisms are not clear. Omi/HtrA2 deficiency caused an accumulation of reactive oxygen species and reduced mitochondrial membrane potential. In Omi/HtrA2 knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts, as well as in Omi/HtrA2 silenced human HeLa cells and Drosophila S2R+ cells, we found elongated mitochondria by live cell imaging. Electron microscopy confirmed the mitochondrial morphology alterations and showed abnormal cristae structure. Examining the levels of proteins involved in mitochondrial fusion, we found a selective up-regulation of more soluble OPA1 protein. Complementation of knockout cells with wild-type Omi/HtrA2 but not with the protease mutant [S306A]Omi/HtrA2 reversed the mitochondrial elongation phenotype and OPA1 alterations. Finally, co-immunoprecipitation showed direct interaction of Omi/HtrA2 with endogenous OPA1. Thus, we show for the first time a direct effect of loss of Omi/HtrA2 on mitochondrial morphology and demonstrate a novel role of this mitochondrial serine protease in the modulation of OPA1. Our results underscore a critical role of impaired mitochondrial dynamics in neurodegenerative disorders.
- Parkinson's disease