Malic enzyme 2 connects the Krebs cycle intermediate fumarate to mitochondrial biogenesis

Cell Metab. 2021 May 4;33(5):1027-1041.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2021.03.003. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Mitochondria have an independent genome (mtDNA) and protein synthesis machinery that coordinately activate for mitochondrial generation. Here, we report that the Krebs cycle intermediate fumarate links metabolism to mitobiogenesis through binding to malic enzyme 2 (ME2). Mechanistically, fumarate binds ME2 with two complementary consequences. First, promoting the formation of ME2 dimers, which activate deoxyuridine 5'-triphosphate nucleotidohydrolase (DUT). DUT fosters thymidine generation and an increase of mtDNA. Second, fumarate-induced ME2 dimers abrogate ME2 monomer binding to mitochondrial ribosome protein L45, freeing it for mitoribosome assembly and mtDNA-encoded protein production. Methylation of the ME2-fumarate binding site by protein arginine methyltransferase-1 inhibits fumarate signaling to constrain mitobiogenesis. Notably, acute myeloid leukemia is highly dependent on mitochondrial function and is sensitive to targeting of the fumarate-ME2 axis. Therefore, mitobiogenesis can be manipulated in normal and malignant cells through ME2, an unanticipated governor of mitochondrial biomass production that senses nutrient availability through fumarate.

Keywords: acute myeloid leukemia; arginine methylation; deoxyuridine 5′-triphosphate nucleotidohydrolase; fumarate; malic enzyme 2; mitobiogenesis; mitochondrial ribosome; mitochondrial ribosome protein L45; protein arginine methyltransferase 1.