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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jan 27;287(5):3265-72. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.280156. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

Mitophagy plays an essential role in reducing mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species and mutation of mitochondrial DNA by maintaining mitochondrial quantity and quality in yeast.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan.


In mammalian cells, the autophagy-dependent degradation of mitochondria (mitophagy) is thought to maintain mitochondrial quality by eliminating damaged mitochondria. However, the physiological importance of mitophagy has not been clarified in yeast. Here, we investigated the physiological role of mitophagy in yeast using mitophagy-deficient atg32- or atg11-knock-out cells. When wild-type yeast cells in respiratory growth encounter nitrogen starvation, mitophagy is initiated, excess mitochondria are degraded, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production from mitochondria is suppressed; as a result, the mitochondria escape oxidative damage. On the other hand, in nitrogen-starved mitophagy-deficient yeast, excess mitochondria are not degraded and the undegraded mitochondria spontaneously age and produce surplus ROS. The surplus ROS damage the mitochondria themselves and the damaged mitochondria produce more ROS in a vicious circle, ultimately leading to mitochondrial DNA deletion and the so-called "petite-mutant" phenotype. Cells strictly regulate mitochondrial quantity and quality because mitochondria produce both necessary energy and harmful ROS. Mitophagy contributes to this process by eliminating the mitochondria to a basal level to fulfill cellular energy requirements and preventing excess ROS production.

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