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Free Radic Biol Med. 2005 Jan 1;38(1):2-11.

Kinase signaling cascades in the mitochondrion: a matter of life or death.

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  • 1Division of Neuropathology, Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


In addition to powering energy needs of the cell, mitochondria function as pivotal integrators of cell survival/death signals. In recent years, numerous studies indicate that each of the major kinase signaling pathways can be stimulated to target the mitochondrion. These include protein kinase A, protein kinase B/Akt, protein kinase C, extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase, c-Jun N-terminal kinase, and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. Although most studies focus on phosphorylation of pro- and antiapoptotic proteins (BAD, Bax, Bcl-2, Bcl-xL), kinase-mediated regulation of complex I activity, anion and cation channels, metabolic enzymes, and Mn-SOD mRNA has also been reported. Recent identification of a number of scaffold proteins (AKAP, PICK, Sab) that bring specific kinases to the cytoplasmic surface of mitochondria further emphasizes the importance of mitochondrial kinase signaling. Immunogold electron microscopy, subcellular fractionation and immunofluorescence studies demonstrate the presence of kinases within subcompartments of the mitochondrion, following diverse stimuli and in neurodegenerative diseases. Given the sensitivity of these signaling pathways to reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, in situ activation of mitochondrial kinases may represent a potent reverse-signaling mechanism for communication of mitochondrial status to the rest of the cell.

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