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Investigating the role of lipid dysfunction in mitophagy

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Title: Investigating the role of lipid dysfunction in mitophagy
Author(s): Naddafi, Seyedehshima
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine
Degree program: Master's Programme in Translational Medicine
Specialisation: Cross-disciplinary translational medicine
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Abstract:
Autophagy is an essential pathway that evolved to sustain cellular integrity by removing damaged and aged organelles. During this process, our cells sense, encapsulate and deliver defective cellular components to the lysosome for destruction. Over the past decade, many laboratories have demonstrated that damaged mitochondria can be selectively eliminated, during a process known as "mitophagy". Mitophagy senses, targets, and engulfs defective mitochondria for elimination via lysosomal hydrolysis. The identification of factors that promote or prevent mitophagy has high therapeutic relevance, particularly those that alter PINK1/Parkin-independent mitophagy. Recent research in the McWilliams lab uncovered a novel role for lipid metabolism in the regulation of PINK1/Parkin-independent mitophagy. Briefly, the team discovered that DGAT1-dependent lipid droplet (LD) biosynthesis occurred several hours upstream of mitochondrial clearance, with LDs accumulation upon iron chelation. LDs accumulate in a DGAT1-dependent fashion as mitochondria are eliminated. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of DGAT1, restricts mitophagy levels in vitro and in vivo. However, the mechanism that linked defective lipid metabolism to reduced mitophagy remained mysterious. We hypothesized that defective lipid signalling may compromise lysosomal activity leading to reduced levels of mitophagy. Accordingly, my project examined the functional contribution of DGAT-dependent LD biogenesis to lysosomal homeostasis in the context of PINK1/Parkin-independent mitophagy. After first verifying the DGAT1-dependent nature of LD accumulation in human cells, I established assays to investigate lysosomal homeostasis in the context of iron chelation-induced mitophagy. Using a variety of labelling approaches, live cell imaging experiments revealed a significant displacement of endolysosomes upon DGAT1/2 inhibition, in addition to possible alterations in lysosomal dynamics. My data suggest that loss of DGAT1 activity impairs lysosomal homeostasis when iron levels are low. This likely explains the mitophagy impairments and might account for additional phenotypes of impaired cell viability upon DGAT1 inhibition. Changes in lysosomal acidity were inconclusive, indicating further timepoints may need to be analysed to detect transient impairments in hydrolysis. My results emphasize the importance of organelle crosstalk in mitophagy and the emerging role of LDs in cellular integrity. These data further highlight that targeting lipid metabolism may provide a means to sustain efficient mitochondrial turnover.
Keyword(s): mitophagy DGAT1 Iron lipid droplet metabolism


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