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Event Title

Mitochondrial dysfunction, N/A
Short name: Mitochondrial dysfunction, N/A

Key Event Overview

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AOPs Including This Key Event

AOP Name Event Type Essentiality
Binding of agonists to ionotropic glutamate receptors in adult brain causes excitotoxicity that mediates neuronal cell death, contributing to learning and memory impairment. KE Strong
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation contributes to abnormal foraging and leads to colony loss/failure KE Strong
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation contributes to abnormal roll change within the worker bee caste leading to colony loss/failure KE
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation contributes to impaired hive thermoregulation and leads to colony loss/failure KE
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation contributes to accumulation of damaged mitochondrial DNA and leads to colony loss/failure KE
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation contributes to abnormal foraging and leads to colony loss/failure KE
Inhibition of the mitochondrial complex I of nigra-striatal neurons leads to parkinsonian motor deficits KE Strong
Lysosomal damage leading to liver inflammation KE Strong
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction and leads to colony loss/failure KE
Estrogen receptor activation leading to breast cancer KE Strong

Taxonomic Applicability

Name Scientific Name Evidence Links
human Homo sapiens Strong NCBI
mouse Mus musculus Strong NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus Strong NCBI

Level of Biological Organization

Biological Organization

How this Key Event works

Mitochondrial dysfunction is a consequence of inhibition of the respiratory chain leading to oxidative stress.

Mitochondria can be found in all cells and are considered the most important cellular consumers of oxygen. Furthermore, mitochondria possess numerous redox enzymes capable of transferring single electrons to oxygen, generating the superoxide (O2-). Some mitochondrial enzymes that are involved in reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation include the electron-transport chain (ETC) complexes I, II and III; pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) and glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GPDH). The transfer of electrons to oxygen, generating superoxide, happens mainly when these redox carriers are charged enough with electrons and the potential energy for transfer is elevated, like in the case of high mitochondrial membrane potential. In contrast, ROS generation is decreased if there are not enough electrons and the potential energy for the transfer is not sufficient (reviewed in Lin and Beal, 2006).

Cells are also able to detoxify the generated ROS due to an extensive antioxidant defence system that includes superoxide dismutases, glutathione peroxidases, catalase, thioredoxins, and peroxiredoxins in various cell organelles (reviewed in Lin and Beal, 2006). It is worth mentioning that, as in the case of ROS generation, antioxidant defences are also closely related to the redox and energetic status of mitochondria. If mitochondria are structurally and functionally healthy, an antioxidant defence mechanism balances ROS generation, and there is not much available ROS production. However, in case of mitochondrial damage, the antioxidant defence capacity drops and ROS generation takes over. Once this happens, a vicious cycle starts and ROS can further damage mitochondria, leading to more free-radical generation and further loss of antioxidant capacity. During mitochondrial dysfunction the availability of ATP also decreases, which is considered necessary for repair mechanisms after ROS generation.

A number of proteins bound to the mitochondria or endoplasmic reticulum (ER), especially in the mitochondria-associated ER membrane (MAM)are playing an important role of communicators between these two organelles (reviewed Mei et al., 2013). ER stress induces mitochondrial dysfunction through regulation of Ca2+ signaling and ROS production (reviewed Mei et al., 2013). Prolonged ER stress leads to release of Ca2+ at the MAM and increased Ca2+ uptake into the mitochondrial matrix, which induces Ca2+-dependent mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization and apoptosis. At the same, ROS are produced by proteins in the ER oxidoreductin 1 (ERO1) family. ER stress activates ERO1 and leads to excessive production of ROS, which, in turn, inactivates SERCA and activates inositol-1,4,5- trisphosphate receptors (IP3R) via oxidation, resulting in elevated levels of cytosolic Ca2+, increased mitochondrial uptake of Ca2+, and ultimately mitochondrial dysfunction. Just as ER stress can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, mitochondrial dysfunction also induces ER Stress (reviewed Mei et al., 2013). For example, nitric oxide disrupts the mitochondrial respiratory chain and causes changes in mitochondrial Ca2+ flux which induce ER stress. Increased Ca2+ flux triggers loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), opening of mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP), release of cytochrome c and apoptosis inducing factor (AIF), decreasing ATP synthesis and rendering the cells more vulnerable to both apoptosis and necrosis (Wang and Qin, 2010).

Summing up: Mitochondria play a pivotal role in cell survival and cell death because they are regulators of both energy metabolism and apoptotic/necrotic pathways (Fiskum, 2000; Wieloch, 2001; Friberg and Wieloch, 2002). The production of ATP via oxidative phosphorylation is a vital mitochondrial function (Kann and Kovács, 2007; Nunnari and Suomalainen, 2012). The ATP is continuously required for signalling processes (e.g. Ca2+ signalling), maintenance of ionic gradients across membranes, and biosynthetic processes (e.g. protein synthesis, heme synthesis or lipid and phospholipid metabolism) (Kang and Pervaiz, 2012), and (Green, 1998; McBride et al., 2006). Inhibition of mitochondrial respiration contributes to various cellular stress responses, such as deregulation of cellular Ca2+ homeostasis (Graier et al., 2007) and ROS production (Nunnari and Suomalainen, 2012; reviewed Mei et al., 2013).). It is well established in the existing literature that mitochondrial dysfunction may result in: (a) an increased ROS production and a decreased ATP level, (b) the loss of mitochondrial protein import and protein biosynthesis, (c) the reduced activities of enzymes of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and the Krebs cycle, (d) the loss of the mitochondrial membrane potential, (e) the loss of mitochondrial motility, causing a failure to re-localize to the sites with increased energy demands (f) the destruction of the mitochondrial network, and (g) increased mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake, causing Ca2+ overload (reviewed in Lin and Beal, 2006; Graier et al., 2007), (h) the rupture of the mitochondrial inner and outer membranes, leading to (i) the release of mitochondrial pro-death factors, including cytochrome c (Cyt. c), apoptosis-inducing factor, or endonuclease G (Braun, 2012; Martin, 2011; Correia et al., 2012; Cozzolino et al., 2013), which eventually leads to apoptotic, necrotic or autophagic cell death (Wang and Qin, 2010). Due to their structural and functional complexity, mitochondria present multiple targets for various compounds.

How it is Measured or Detected

Methods that have been previously reviewed and approved by a recognized authority should be included in the Overview section above. All other methods, including those well established in the published literature, should be described here. Consider the following criteria when describing each method: 1. Is the assay fit for purpose? 2. Is the assay directly or indirectly (i.e. a surrogate) related to a key event relevant to the final adverse effect in question? 3. Is the assay repeatable? 4. Is the assay reproducible?

Mitochondrial dysfunction can be detected using isolated mitochondria, intact cells or cells in culture as well as in vivo studies. Such assessment can be performed with a large range of methods (revised by Brand and Nicholls, 2011) for which some important examples are given. All approaches to assess mitochondrial dysfunction fall into two main categories: the first assesses the consequences of a loss-of-function, i.e. impaired functioning of the respiratory chain and processes linked to it. Some assay to assess this have been described for KE1, with the limitation that they are not specific for complex I. In the context of overall mitochondrial dysfunction, the same assays provide useful information, when performed under slightly different assay conditions (e.g. without addition of complex III and IV inhibitors). The second approach assesses a ‘non-desirable gain-of-function’, i.e. processes that are usually only present to a very small degree in healthy cells, and that are triggered in a cell, in which mitochondria fail.

I. Mitochondrial dysfunction assays assessing a loss-of function.

1. Cellular oxygen consumption

See KE1 for details of oxygen consumption assays. The oxygen consumption parameter can be combined with other endpoints to derive more specific information on the efficacy of mitochondrial function. One approach measures the ADP-to-O ratio (the number of ADP molecules phosphorylated per oxygen atom reduced (Hinkle, 1995 and Hafner et al., 1990). The related P/O ratio is calculated from the amount of ADP added, divided by the amount of O consumed while phosphorylating the added ADP (Ciapaite et al., 2005; Diepart et al., 2010; Hynes et al., 2006; James et al., 1995; von Heimburg et al., 2005).

2. Mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψm )

The mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψm) is the electric potential difference across the inner mitochondrial membrane. It requires a functioning respiratory chain in the absence of mechanisms that dissipate the proton gradient without coupling it to ATP production. The classical, and still most quantitative method uses a tetraphenylphosphonium ion (TPP+)-sensitive electrode on suspensions of isolated mitochondria. The Δψm can also be measured in live cells by fluorimetric methods. These are based on dyes which accumulate in mitochochondria because of Δψm. Frequently used are tetramethylrhodamineethylester (TMRE), tetramethylrhodamine, methyl ester (TMRM) (Petronilli et al., 1999) or 5,5′,6,6′-tetrachloro-1,1′,3,3′-tetraethylbenzimidazole carbocyanide iodide (JC-1). Mitochondria with intact membrane potential concentrate JC-1, so that it forms red fluorescent aggregates, whereas de-energized mitochondria cannot concentrate JC-1 and the dilute dye fluoresces green (Barrientos et al., 1999). Assays using TMRE or TMRM measure only at one wavelength (red fluorescence), and depending on the assay setup, de-energized mitochondria become either less fluorescent (loss of the dye) or more fluorescent (attenuated dye quenching).

3. Enzymatic activity of the electron transport system (ETS)

Determination of ETS activity can be determined following Owens and King's assay (1975). The technique is based on a cell-free homogenate that is incubated with NADH to saturate the mitochondrial ETS and an artificial electron acceptor [l - (4 -iodophenyl) -3 - (4 -nitrophenyl) -5-phenylte trazolium chloride (INT)] to register the electron transmission rate. The oxygen consumption rate is calculated from the molar production rate of INT-formazan which is determined spectrophotometrically (Cammen et al., 1990).

4. ATP content

For the evaluation of ATP levels, various commercially-available ATP assay kits are offered (e.g. Sigma, http://www.abcam.com/atp-assay-kit-colorimetricfluorometric-ab83355.html), based on luciferin and luciferase activity. For isolated mitochondria various methods are available to continuously measure ATP with electrodes (Laudet 2005), with luminometric methods, or for obtaining more information on different nucleotide phosphate pools (e.g. Ciapaite et al., (2005).

II. Mitochondrial dysfunction assays assessing a gain-of function.

1. Mitochondrial permeability transition pore opening (PTP)

The opening of the PTP is associated with a permeabilization of mitochondrial membranes, so that different compounds and cellular constituents can change intracellular localization. This can be measured by assessment of the translocation of cytochrome c, adenylate kinase or AIF from mitochondria to the cytosol or nucleus. The translocation can be assessed biochemically in cell fractions, by imaging approaches in fixed cells or tissues or by life-cell imaging of GFP fusion proteins (Single 1998; Modjtahedi 2006). An alternative approach is to measure the accessibility of cobalt to the mitochondrial matrix in a calcein fluorescence quenching assay in live permeabilized cells (Petronilli et al., 1999).

2. mtDNA damage as a biomarker of mitochondrial dysfunction

Various quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR)-based assays have been developed to detect changes of DNA structure and sequence in the mitochondrial genome. mtDNA damage can be detected in blood after low-level rotenone exposure, and the damage persists even after CI activity has returned to normal. With a more sustained rotenone exposure, mtDNA damage is also detected in skeletal muscle. These data support the idea that mtDNA damage in peripheral tissues in the rotenone model may provide a biomarker of past or ongoing mitochondrial toxin exposure (Sanders et al., 2014a and 2014b).

3. Generation of ROS and resultant oxidative stress

a. general approach Electrons from the mitochondrial ETS may be transferred ‘erroneously’ to molecular oxygen to form superoxide anions. This type of side reaction can be strongly enhanced upon mitochondrial damage. As superoxide may form hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals or other reactive oxygen species, a large number of direct ROS assays and assays assessing the effects of ROS (indirect ROS assays) are available (Adam-Vizi, 2005; Fan and Li 2014). Direct assays are based on the chemical modification of fluorescent or luminescent reporters by ROS species. Indirect assays assess cellular metabolites, the concentration of which is changed in the presence of ROS (e.g. glutathione, malonaldehyde, isoprostanes,etc.) At the animal level the effects of oxidative stress are measured from biomarkers in the blood or urine.

b. Measurement of the cellular glutathione (GSH) status GSH is regenerated from its oxidized form (GSSH) by the action of an NADPH dependent reductase (GSSH + NADPH + H+ à 2 GSH + NADP+). The ratio of GSH/GSSG is therefore a good indicator for the cellular NADH+/NADPH ratio (i.e. the redox potential).. GSH and GSSH levels can be determined by HPLC, capillary electrophoresis, or biochemically with DTNB (Ellman’s reagent). As excess GSSG is rapidly exported from most cells to maintain a constant GSH/GSSG ratio, a reduction of total glutathione (GSH/GSSG) is often a good surrogate measure for oxidative stress.

c. Quantification of lipid peroxidation Measurement of lipid peroxidation has historically relied on the detection of thiobarbituric acid (TBA)-reactive compounds such as malondialdehyde generated from the decomposition of cellular membrane lipid under oxidative stress (Pryor et al., 1976). This method is quite sensitive, but not highly specific.. A number of commercial assay kits are available for this assay using absorbance or fluorescence detection technologies. The formation of F2-like prostanoid derivatives of arachidonic acid, termed F2-isoprostanes (IsoP) has been shown to be more specific for lipid peroxidation. A number of commercial ELISA kits have been developed for IsoPs, but interfering agents in samples requires partial purification before analysis. Alternatively, GC/MS may be used, as robust (specific) and sensitive method.

d. Detection of superoxide production Generation of superoxide by inhibition of complex I and the methods for its detection are described by Grivennikova and Vinogradov (2014). A range of different methods is also described by BioTek (http://www.biotek.com/resources/articles/reactive-oxygen-species.html). The reduction of ferricytochrome c to ferrocytochrome c may be used to assess the rate of superoxide formation (McCord, 1968). Like in other superoxide assays, specificity can only be obtained by measurements in teh absence and presence of superoxide dismutase. Chemiluminescent reactions have been used for their increased sensitivity. The most widely used chemiluminescent substrate is lucigenin. Coelenterazine has also been used as a chemiluminescent substrate. Hydrocyanine dyes are fluorogenic sensors for superoxide and hydroxyl radical, and they become membrane impermeable after oxidation (trapping at sit of formation). The best characterized of these probes are Hydro-Cy3 and Hydro-Cy5. generation of superoxide in mitochondria can be visualized using fluorescence microscopy with MitoSOX™ Red reagent (Life Technologies). MitoSOX™ Red reagent is a cationic derivative of dihydroethidium that permeates live cells and accumulates in mitochondria.

e. Detection of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) production There are a number of fluorogenic substrates, which serve as hydrogen donors that have been used in conjunction with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) enzyme to produce intensely fluorescent products in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (Zhou et al., 1997: Ruch et al., 1983). The more commonly used substrates include diacetyldichloro-fluorescein, homovanillic acid, and Amplex® Red. In these examples, increasing amounts of H2O2 form increasing amounts of fluorescent product (Tarpley et al., 2004).

Summing up mitochondrial dysfunction can be measured by: • ROS production: superoxide (O2-), and hydroxyl radicals (OH−) • Nitrosative radical formation such as ONOO− or directly by: • Loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) • Opening of mitochondrial permeability transition pores (MPTP) • ATP synthesis • Increase in mitochondrial Ca2+ • Cytochrome c release • AIF (apoptosis inducing factor) release from mitochondria • Mitochondrial Complexes enzyme activity • Measurements of mitochondrial oxygen consumption • Ultrastructure of mitochondria using electron microscope and mitochondrial fragmentation measured by labelling with DsRed-Mito expression (Knott et al, 2008) Mitochondrial dysfunction-induced oxidative stress can be measured by: • Reactive carbonyls formations (proteins oxidation) • Increased 8-oxo-dG immunoreactivity (DNA oxidation) • Lipid peroxidation (formation of malondialdehyde (MDA) and 4- hydroxynonenal (HNE) • 3-nitrotyrosine (3-NT) formation, marker of protein nitration • Translocation of Bid and Bax to mitochondria • Measurement of intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i): Cells are loaded with 4 μM fura-2/AM). • Ratio between reduced and oxidized form of glutathione (GSH depletion)(Promega assay, TB369; Radkowsky et al., 1986 • Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) activation that is Ca2+-dependent All above measurements can be performed as the assays for each readout are well established in the existing literature (e.g. Bal-Price and Brown, 2000; Bal-Price et al., 2002; Fujikawa, 2015; Walker et al., 1995). See also KE Oxidative Stress, Increase

Evidence Supporting Taxonomic Applicability

Mitochondrial dysfunction is a universal event occurring in cells of any species (Farooqui and Farooqui, 2012). Many invertebrate species (drosophila, C, elegans) are considered as potential models to study mitochondrial function. New data on marine invertebrates, such as molluscs and crustaceans and non-Drosophila species, are emerging (Martinez-Cruz et al., 2012). Mitochondrial dysfunction can be measured in animal models used for toxicity testing (Winklhofer and Haass, 2010; Waerzeggers et al 2010) as well as in humans (Winklhofer and Haass, 2010).


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