Friendly mediates membrane depolarization-induced mitophagy in Arabidopsis

Curr Biol. 2021 May 10;31(9):1931-1944.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.02.034. Epub 2021 Mar 11.


The oxidative environment within the mitochondria makes them particularly vulnerable to proteotoxic stress. To maintain a healthy mitochondrial network, eukaryotes have evolved multi-tiered quality control pathways. If the stress cannot be alleviated, defective mitochondria are selectively removed by autophagy via a process termed mitophagy. Despite significant advances in metazoans and yeast, in plants, the molecular underpinnings of mitophagy are largely unknown. Here, using time-lapse imaging, electron tomography, and biochemical assays, we show that uncoupler treatments cause loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and induce autophagy in Arabidopsis. The damaged mitochondria are selectively engulfed by autophagosomes that are labeled by ATG8 proteins in an ATG5-dependent manner. Friendly, a member of the clustered mitochondria protein family, is recruited to the damaged mitochondria to mediate mitophagy. In addition to the stress, mitophagy is also induced during de-etiolation, a major cellular transformation during photomorphogenesis that involves chloroplast biogenesis. De-etiolation-triggered mitophagy is involved in cotyledon greening, pointing toward an inter-organellar crosstalk mechanism. Altogether, our results demonstrate how plants employ mitophagy to recycle damaged mitochondria during stress and development.

Keywords: Arabidopsis; autophagy; clustered mitochondria protein; de-etiolation; electron tomography; mitochondria recycling; mitophagy; time-lapse live-cell imaging; uncoupler.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis*
  • Autophagosomes
  • Autophagy
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • Mitophagy
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins*


  • ATG5 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins