A Respiratory Chain Controlled Signal Transduction Cascade in the Mitochondrial Intermembrane Space Mediates Hydrogen Peroxide Signaling

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Oct 20;112(42):E5679-88. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1517932112. Epub 2015 Oct 5.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) govern cellular homeostasis by inducing signaling. H2O2 modulates the activity of phosphatases and many other signaling molecules through oxidation of critical cysteine residues, which led to the notion that initiation of ROS signaling is broad and nonspecific, and thus fundamentally distinct from other signaling pathways. Here, we report that H2O2 signaling bears hallmarks of a regular signal transduction cascade. It is controlled by hierarchical signaling events resulting in a focused response as the results place the mitochondrial respiratory chain upstream of tyrosine-protein kinase Lyn, Lyn upstream of tyrosine-protein kinase SYK (Syk), and Syk upstream of numerous targets involved in signaling, transcription, translation, metabolism, and cell cycle regulation. The active mediators of H2O2 signaling colocalize as H2O2 induces mitochondria-associated Lyn and Syk phosphorylation, and a pool of Lyn and Syk reside in the mitochondrial intermembrane space. Finally, the same intermediaries control the signaling response in tissues and species responsive to H2O2 as the respiratory chain, Lyn, and Syk were similarly required for H2O2 signaling in mouse B cells, fibroblasts, and chicken DT40 B cells. Consistent with a broad role, the Syk pathway is coexpressed across tissues, is of early metazoan origin, and displays evidence of evolutionary constraint in the human. These results suggest that H2O2 signaling is under control of a signal transduction pathway that links the respiratory chain to the mitochondrial intermembrane space-localized, ubiquitous, and ancient Syk pathway in hematopoietic and nonhematopoietic cells.

Keywords: Btk; PTPN6; dasatinib; fostamatinib; rotenone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chickens
  • Electron Transport*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Syk Kinase
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tyrosine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • SYK protein, human
  • Syk Kinase
  • Syk protein, mouse