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Genes Dev. 2010 Jul 15;24(14):1507-18. doi: 10.1101/gad.1924910.

Wnt signaling regulates mitochondrial physiology and insulin sensitivity.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Mitochondria serve a critical role in physiology and disease. The genetic basis of mitochondrial regulation in mammalian cells has not yet been detailed. We performed a large-scale RNAi screen to systematically identify genes that affect mitochondrial abundance and function. This screen revealed previously unrecognized roles for >150 proteins in mitochondrial regulation. We report that increased Wnt signals are a potent activator of mitochondrial biogenesis and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, leading to DNA damage and acceleration of cellular senescence in primary cells. The signaling protein insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1), shown here to be a transcriptional target of Wnt, is induced in this setting. The increased level of IRS-1 drives activation of mitochondrial biogenesis; furthermore, in insulin-responsive cell types, it enhances insulin signaling, raising the possibility that Wnt proteins may be used to modulate glucose homeostasis. Our results identify a key component of the mitochondrial regulatory apparatus with a potentially important link to metabolic and degenerative disorders.

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