Mitochondrial nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide reduced (NADH) oxidation links the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle with methionine metabolism and nuclear DNA methylation

PLoS Biol. 2018 Apr 18;16(4):e2005707. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2005707. eCollection 2018 Apr.


Mitochondrial function affects many aspects of cellular physiology, and, most recently, its role in epigenetics has been reported. Mechanistically, how mitochondrial function alters DNA methylation patterns in the nucleus remains ill defined. Using a cell culture model of induced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion, in this study we show that progressive mitochondrial dysfunction leads to an early transcriptional and metabolic program centered on the metabolism of various amino acids, including those involved in the methionine cycle. We find that this program also increases DNA methylation, which occurs primarily in the genes that are differentially expressed. Maintenance of mitochondrial nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide reduced (NADH) oxidation in the context of mtDNA loss rescues methionine salvage and polyamine synthesis and prevents changes in DNA methylation and gene expression but does not affect serine/folate metabolism or transsulfuration. This work provides a novel mechanistic link between mitochondrial function and epigenetic regulation of gene expression that involves polyamine and methionine metabolism responding to changes in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Given the implications of these findings, future studies across different physiological contexts and in vivo are warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Citric Acid Cycle / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Folic Acid / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Methionine / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • NAD / metabolism*
  • Osteoblasts / cytology
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Serine / metabolism
  • Tricarboxylic Acids / metabolism


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Tricarboxylic Acids
  • NAD
  • Serine
  • Folic Acid
  • Methionine