Pathogenic mutations in the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) impair organellar ATP production, requiring mutant cells to activate metabolic adaptations for survival. Understanding how metabolism adapts to clinically relevant mtDNA mutations may provide insight into cellular strategies for metabolic flexibility. In this study, we use 13C isotope tracing and metabolic flux analysis to investigate central carbon and amino acid metabolic reprogramming in isogenic cells containing mtDNA mutations. We identify alterations in glutamine and cystine transport which indirectly regulate mitochondrial metabolism and electron transport chain function. Metabolism of cystine can promote glucose oxidation through the transsulfuration pathway and the production of α-ketobutyrate. Intriguingly, activating or inhibiting α-ketobutyrate production is sufficient to modulate both glucose oxidation and mitochondrial respiration in mtDNA mutant cells. Thus, cystine-stimulated transsulfuration serves as an adaptive mechanism linking glucose oxidation and amino acid metabolism in the setting of mtDNA mutations.
Keywords: Metabolic reprogramming; Transsulfuration; mtDNA mutations.
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