The down regulation of mitochondrial electron transport is an emerging mechanism of cytoprotective intervention that is effective in pathologic settings such as myocardial ischemia and reperfusion when the continuation of mitochondrial respiration produces reactive oxygen species, mitochondrial calcium overload, and the release of cytochrome c to activate cell death programs. The initial target of deranged electron transport is the mitochondria themselves. In the first part of this review, we describe this concept and summarize different approaches used to regulate mitochondrial respiration by targeting complex I as a proximal site in the electron transport chain (ETC) in order to favor the cytoprotection. The second part of the review highlights the emerging role of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) in the direct, non-transcriptional regulation of ETC, as an example of a genetic approach to modulate respiration. Recent studies indicate that a pool of STAT3 resides in the mitochondria where it is necessary for the maximal activity of complexes I and II of the electron transport chain (ETC). The overexpression of mitochondrial-targeted STAT3 results in a partial blockade of electron transport at complexes I and II that does not impair mitochondrial membrane potential nor enhance the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The targeting of transcriptionally-inactive STAT3 to mitochondria attenuates damage to mitochondria during cell stress, resulting in decreased production of ROS and retention of cytochrome c by mitochondria. The overexpression of STAT3 targeted to mitochondria unveils a novel protective approach mediated by modulation of mitochondrial respiration that is independent of STAT3 transcriptional activity. The limitation of mitochondrial respiration under pathologic circumstances can be approached by activation and overexpression of endogenous signaling mechanisms in addition to pharmacologic means. The regulation of mitochondrial respiration comprises a cardioprotective paradigm to decrease cellular injury during ischemia and reperfusion.
Published by Elsevier B.V.