The molecular mechanism of mitochondrial fission is not known. This process is essential and closely regulated through a variety of modifications to the major protein factor of the mitochondrial fission complex, Drp1. The goal of this proposal is to identify key molecular interactions within the mitochondrial fission complex and to understand regulatory changes that influence these interactions and ultimately affect mitochondrial fission. To begin, structures of larger, helical Drp1 oligomers on membrane templates will be studied to identify conformational changes in the Drp1 protein that promote self-assembly at the surface of mitochondria. Specifically, cryo-EM and mitochondrial isolation studies will be performed in parallel to reveal interactions within the mitochondrial fission complex adjacent to the neighboring membrane. In parallel, detailed interactions within Drp1 complexes will be identified using proteomics and mutagenesis methods. Factors that perturb Drp1 self-assembly also disrupt organelle morphology, so Drp1 interactions with the essential partner protein, Mff, will also be examined. Specifically, protein co-polymers will be characterized using structural methods to uncover the mechanism by which Drp1 is targeted to the surface of mitochondria and how Mff contributes to productive mitochondrial fission. To mimic changes associated with human disease, Drp1 sequence will be altered using site-directed mutagenesis to recapitulate natural sequence changes caused by post-translational modifications. The full effects of these changes will be assessed using structural and biochemical assays, and noticeable differences between healthy and diseased mitochondrial fission complexes will be identified. These same changes will be introduced in cell culture to correlate alterations in mitochondrial morphology to functional alterations observed in vitro. To further characterize the impact of these changes, we plan to assess the bioenergetic capacities of stable cell lines expressing phosphomimetic mutants. Moreover, the assembly properties of Drp1 and its partner proteins will be assayed in the context of post-translational modifications to reveal the underlying effects of cell signaling alterations that modify the mitochondrial network. Collectively, this project seeks to identify detailed features within the mitochondrial fission complex that contribute to specific disease states. These differences provide novel targets for the development of future therapeutics that prevent cell death in neurological disorders, which are associated with increased Drp1 activity and excessive mitochondrial fission.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research is relevant to public health because it provides detailed insight into the fundamental mechanism of mitochondrial fission. In several human diseases, excessive mitochondrial division leads to organelle dysfunction and eventually cell death. Therefore, factors that inhibit mitochondrial fission are actively being sought. A goal of this project is to identify specific structural and functional differences in the fission machinery that are associated with human disease. From these experiments, novel therapeutic targets will be identified to inform future studies. Collectively, the proposed research is relevant to the NIH's mission in that it increases our understanding of fundamental life processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. !

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Membrane Biology and Protein Processing Study Section (MBPP)
Program Officer
Flicker, Paula F
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Case Western Reserve University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Lu, Bin; Kennedy, Bridget; Clinton, Ryan W et al. (2018) Steric interference from intrinsically disordered regions controls dynamin-related protein 1 self-assembly during mitochondrial fission. Sci Rep 8:10879
Tandler, Bernard; Hoppel, Charles L; Mears, Jason A (2018) Morphological Pathways of Mitochondrial Division. Antioxidants (Basel) 7: