Mitochondrial respiratory deficiencies signal up-regulation of genes for heat shock proteins

Evgeny V. Kuzmin, Olga V. Karpova, Thomas E. Elthon, Kathleen J. Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The consequences of mitochondrial dysfunction are not limited to the development of oxidative stress or initiation of apoptosis but can result in the establishment of stress tolerance. Using maize mitochondrial mutants, we show that permanent mitochondrial deficiencies trigger novel Ca 2+-independent signaling pathways, leading to constitutive expression of genes for molecular chaperones, heat shock proteins (HSPs) of different classes. The signaling to activate hsp genes appears to originate from a reduced mitochondrial transmembrane potential. Upon depolarization of mitochondrial membranes in transient assays, gene induction for mitochondrial HSPs occurred more rapidly than that for cytosolic HSPs. We also demonstrate that in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans transcription of hsp genes can be induced by RNA interference of nuclear respiratory genes. In both organisms, activation of hsp genes in response to mitochondrial impairment is distinct from their responses to heat shock and is not associated with oxidative stress. Thus, mitochondria-to-nucleus signaling to express a hsp gene network is apparently a widespread retrograde mechanism to facilitate cell defense and survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20672-20677
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 14 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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