A Chemical Screen Probing the Relationship Between Mitochondrial Content and Cell Size

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33755. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033755. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

Abstract

The cellular content of mitochondria changes dynamically during development and in response to external stimuli, but the underlying mechanisms remain obscure. To systematically identify molecular probes and pathways that control mitochondrial abundance, we developed a high-throughput imaging assay that tracks both the per cell mitochondrial content and the cell size in confluent human umbilical vein endothelial cells. We screened 28,786 small molecules and observed that hundreds of small molecules are capable of increasing or decreasing the cellular content of mitochondria in a manner proportionate to cell size, revealing stereotyped control of these parameters. However, only a handful of compounds dissociate this relationship. We focus on one such compound, BRD6897, and demonstrate through secondary assays that it increases the cellular content of mitochondria as evidenced by fluorescence microscopy, mitochondrial protein content, and respiration, even after rigorous correction for cell size, cell volume, or total protein content. BRD6897 increases uncoupled respiration 1.6-fold in two different, non-dividing cell types. Based on electron microscopy, BRD6897 does not alter the percent of cytoplasmic area occupied by mitochondria, but instead, induces a striking increase in the electron density of existing mitochondria. The mechanism is independent of known transcriptional programs and is likely to be related to a blockade in the turnover of mitochondrial proteins. At present the molecular target of BRD6897 remains to be elucidated, but if identified, could reveal an important additional mechanism that governs mitochondrial biogenesis and turnover.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Size* / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / chemistry*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / chemistry*
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology

Substances

  • Small Molecule Libraries