Myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) is a structurally and functionally unique anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein. While elevated levels of Mcl-1 contribute to tumor cell survival and drug resistance, loss of Mcl-1 in cardiac myocytes leads to rapid mitochondrial dysfunction and heart failure development. Although Mcl-1 is an anti-apoptotic protein, previous studies indicate that its functions extend beyond regulating apoptosis. Mcl-1 is localized to both the mitochondrial outer membrane and matrix. Here, we have identified that Mcl-1 in the outer mitochondrial membrane mediates mitochondrial fission, which is independent of its anti-apoptotic function. We demonstrate that Mcl-1 interacts with Drp1 to promote mitochondrial fission in response to various challenges known to perturb mitochondria morphology. Induction of fission by Mcl-1 reduces nutrient deprivation-induced cell death and the protection is independent of its BH3 domain. Finally, cardiac-specific overexpression of Mcl-1OM, but not Mcl-1Matrix, contributes to a shift in the balance towards fission and leads to reduced exercise capacity, suggesting that a pre-existing fragmented mitochondrial network leads to decreased ability to adapt to an acute increase in workload and energy demand. Overall, these findings highlight the importance of Mcl-1 in maintaining mitochondrial health in cells.
Keywords: Drp1; Fission; Heart; Mcl-1; Mitochondria.
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