Changes in mitochondrial morphology and copy number are associated with a variety of human diseases including neurological disorders and some types of cancer. Although the metabolic functions of mitochondria have been extensively studied, the molecular mechanisms that regulate mitochondrial membrane dynamics are not understood. In the past few years, we characterized two different GTPases in S. cerevisiae that act in opposition to regulate mitochondrial morphology and copy number. Dnm1p is a dynamin-related GTPase that acts on the outer mitochondrial membrane to regulate fission. Fzo1p (fuzzy onions) is a transmembrane GTPase that regulates mitochondrial docking and/or fusion. Both GTPases have human homologues that, when mutated, cause defects in mitochondrial morphology. These findings illustrate how effectively yeast can be used as a tool to study the molecular mechanisms that control mitochondrial dynamics in human cells. Most heterotypic membrane fusion events characterized to date require proteins on the donor membrane (called v-SNAREs) and proteins on the target membranes (called t-SNAREs) that allow proper recognition and docking of the two compartments prior to fusion. It is our hypothesis that the Fzo1 protein defines a new type of SNARE that utilizes GTP hydrolysis to regulate mitochondrial-mitochondrial membrane docking and/or homotypic fusion reactions. Although we are currently testing this hypothesis in living yeast cells, a complete understanding of the biochemical activity of Fzo1p will require an in vitro assay that reconstitutes mitochondrial fusion. The goal of the experiments described in this application is to develop an in vitro assay for mitochondrial fusion using components isolated from S. cerevisiae cells. The role of S. cerevisiae Fzo1p during fusion will then be studied using this assay. The studies we propose will ultimately provide new information about the molecular and biochemical basis of mitochondrial fusion in eukaryotic cells.
|Okamoto, Koji; Shaw, Janet M (2005) Mitochondrial morphology and dynamics in yeast and multicellular eukaryotes. Annu Rev Genet 39:503-36|