Involvement of autophagy and mitochondrial dynamics in determining the fate and effects of irreparable mitochondrial DNA damage.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is different in many ways from nuclear DNA. A key difference is that certain types of DNA damage are not repaired in the mitochondrial genome. What, then, is the fate of such damage? What are the effects? Both questions are important from a health perspective because irreparable mtDNA damage is caused by many common environmental stressors including ultraviolet C radiation (UVC). We found that UVC-induced mtDNA damage is removed slowly in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans via a mechanism dependent on mitochondrial fusion, fission, and autophagy. However, knockdown or knockout of genes involved in these processes—many of which have homologs involved in human mitochondrial diseases—had very different effects on the organismal response to UVC. Reduced mitochondrial fission and autophagy caused no or small effects, while reduced mitochondrial fusion had dramatic effects.
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