Phosphorylation of histone H2AX is a major contributor to efficient DNA repair. We recently reported neurobehavioral deficits in mice lacking H2AX. Here we establish that this neural failure stems from impairment of mitochondrial function and repression of the mitochondrial biogenesis gene PGC-1α. H2AX loss leads to reduced levels of the major subunits of the mitochondrial respiratory complexes in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and in the striatum, a brain region particularly vulnerable to mitochondrial damage. These defects are substantiated by disruption of the mitochondrial shape in H2AX mutant cells. Ectopic expression of PGC-1α restores mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation complexes and mitigates cell death. H2AX knockout mice display increased neuronal death in the brain when challenged with 3-nitropronionic acid, which targets mitochondria. This study establishes a role for H2AX in mitochondrial homeostasis associated with neuroprotection.
Keywords: DNA repair; histone H2AX; mitochondrial homeostasis; neuroprotection; oxidative stress.