Mitochondria undergo fragmentation in response to electron transport chain (ETC) poisons and mitochondrial DNA-linked disease mutations, yet how these stimuli mechanistically connect to the mitochondrial fission and fusion machinery is poorly understood. We found that the energy-sensing adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is genetically required for cells to undergo rapid mitochondrial fragmentation after treatment with ETC inhibitors. Moreover, direct pharmacological activation of AMPK was sufficient to rapidly promote mitochondrial fragmentation even in the absence of mitochondrial stress. A screen for substrates of AMPK identified mitochondrial fission factor (MFF), a mitochondrial outer-membrane receptor for DRP1, the cytoplasmic guanosine triphosphatase that catalyzes mitochondrial fission. Nonphosphorylatable and phosphomimetic alleles of the AMPK sites in MFF revealed that it is a key effector of AMPK-mediated mitochondrial fission.
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.