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EMBO J. 1999 Feb 1; 18(3): 522–533.
PMCID: PMC1171145

Retrograde Ca2+ signaling in C2C12 skeletal myocytes in response to mitochondrial genetic and metabolic stress: a novel mode of inter-organelle crosstalk.


We have investigated the mechanism of mitochondrial-nuclear crosstalk during cellular stress in mouse C2C12 myocytes. For this purpose, we used cells with reduced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) contents by ethidium bromide treatment or myocytes treated with known mitochondrial metabolic inhibitors, including carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), antimycin, valinomycin and azide. Both genetic and metabolic stresses similarly affected mitochondrial membrane potential (Deltapsim) and electron transport-coupled ATP synthesis, which was also accompanied by an elevated steady-state cytosolic Ca2+ level ([Ca2+]i). The mitochondrial stress resulted in: (i) an enhanced expression of the sarcoplasmic reticular ryanodine receptor-1 (RyR-1), hence potentiating the Ca2+ release in response to its modulator, caffeine; (ii) enhanced levels of Ca2+-responsive factors calineurin, calcineurin-dependent NFATc (cytosolic counterpart of activated T-cell-specific nuclear factor) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-dependent ATF2 (activated transcription factor 2); (iii) reduced levels of transcription factor, NF-kappaB; and (iv) enhanced transcription of cytochrome oxidase Vb (COX Vb) subunit gene. These cellular changes, including the steady-state [Ca2+]i were normalized in genetically reverted cells which contain near-normal mtDNA levels. We propose that the mitochondria-to-nucleus stress signaling occurs through cytosolic [Ca2+]i changes, which are likely to be due to reduced ATP and Ca2+ efflux. Our results indicate that the mitochondrial stress signal affects a variety of cellular processes, in addition to mitochondrial membrane biogenesis.

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