Loss of the intermembrane space protein Mgm1/OPA1 induces swelling and localized constrictions along the lengths of mitochondria

J Biol Chem. 2004 Apr 30;279(18):18792-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M400920200. Epub 2004 Feb 16.


Mgm1 is a member of the dynamin family of GTP-binding proteins. Mgm1 was first identified in yeast, where it affects mitochondrial morphology. The human homologue of Mgm1 is called OPA1. Mutations in the OPA1 gene are the prevailing cause of dominant optic atrophy, a hereditary disease in which progressive degeneration of the optic nerve can lead to blindness. Here we investigate the properties of the Mgm1/OPA1 protein in mammalian cells. We find that Mgm1/OPA1 is localized to the mitochondrial intermembrane space, where it is tightly bound to the outer surface of the inner membrane. Overexpression of wild type or mutant forms of the Mgm1/OPA1 protein cause mitochondria to fragment and, in some cases, cluster near the nucleus, whereas the loss of protein caused by small interfering RNA (siRNA) leads to dispersal of mitochondrial fragments throughout the cytosol. The cristae of these fragmented mitochondria are disorganized. At early time points after transfection with Mgm1/OPA1 siRNA, the mitochondria are not yet fragmented. Instead, the mitochondria swell and stretch, after which they form localized constrictions similar to the mitochondrial abnormalities observed during the early stages of apoptosis. These abnormalities might be the earliest effects of losing Mgm1/OPA1 protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Fractionation
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / genetics
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / physiology*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Intracellular Membranes / chemistry
  • Mitochondria / chemistry
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Swelling*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Transfection


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • OPA1 protein, human