MCL-1 Inhibition by Selective BH3 Mimetics Disrupts Mitochondrial Dynamics Causing Loss of Viability and Functionality of Human Cardiomyocytes

iScience. 2020 Apr 24;23(4):101015. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101015. Epub 2020 Mar 30.


MCL-1 is a well-characterized inhibitor of cell death that has also been shown to be a regulator of mitochondrial dynamics in human pluripotent stem cells. We used cardiomyocytes derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs) to uncover whether MCL-1 is crucial for cardiac function and survival. Inhibition of MCL-1 by BH3 mimetics resulted in the disruption of mitochondrial morphology and dynamics as well as disorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Interfering with MCL-1 function affects the homeostatic proximity of DRP-1 and MCL-1 at the outer mitochondrial membrane, resulting in decreased functionality of hiPSC-CMs. Cardiomyocytes display abnormal cardiac performance even after caspase inhibition, supporting a nonapoptotic activity of MCL-1 in hiPSC-CMs. BH3 mimetics targeting MCL-1 are promising anti-tumor therapeutics. Progression toward using BCL-2 family inhibitors, especially targeting MCL-1, depends on understanding its canonical function not only in preventing apoptosis but also in the maintenance of mitochondrial dynamics and function.

Keywords: Cell Biology; Molecular Biology.