A pathway coordinated by DELE1 relays mitochondrial stress to the cytosol

Nature. 2020 Mar;579(7799):433-437. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2076-4. Epub 2020 Mar 4.


Mitochondrial fidelity is tightly linked to overall cellular homeostasis and is compromised in ageing and various pathologies1-3. Mitochondrial malfunction needs to be relayed to the cytosol, where an integrated stress response is triggered by the phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) in mammalian cells4,5. eIF2α phosphorylation is mediated by the four eIF2α kinases GCN2, HRI, PERK and PKR, which are activated by diverse types of cellular stress6. However, the machinery that communicates mitochondrial perturbation to the cytosol to trigger the integrated stress response remains unknown1,2,7. Here we combine genome engineering and haploid genetics to unbiasedly identify genes that affect the induction of C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP), a key factor in the integrated stress response. We show that the mitochondrial protease OMA1 and the poorly characterized protein DELE1, together with HRI, constitute the missing pathway that is triggered by mitochondrial stress. Mechanistically, stress-induced activation of OMA1 causes DELE1 to be cleaved into a short form that accumulates in the cytosol, where it binds to and activates HRI via its C-terminal portion. Obstruction of this pathway can be beneficial or adverse depending on the type of mitochondrial perturbation. In addition to the core pathway components, our comparative genetic screening strategy identifies a suite of additional regulators. Together, these findings could be used to inform future strategies to modulate the cellular response to mitochondrial dysfunction in the context of human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytosol / metabolism*
  • Cytosol / pathology*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2 / metabolism
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / pathology*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Transcription Factor CHOP / metabolism
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism


  • DDIT3 protein, human
  • DELE1 protein, human
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Transcription Factor CHOP
  • EIF2AK1 protein, human
  • eIF-2 Kinase
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • molecule metalloprotease-related protein-1, human