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Cell Death Differ. 2011 Oct;18(10):1561-72. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2011.13. Epub 2011 Mar 4.

Altered fusion dynamics underlie unique morphological changes in mitochondria during hypoxia-reoxygenation stress.

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Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Functional states of mitochondria are often reflected in characteristic mitochondrial morphology. One of the most fundamental stress conditions, hypoxia-reoxygenation has been known to cause impaired mitochondrial function accompanied by structural abnormalities, but the underlying mechanisms need further investigation. Here, we monitored bioenergetics and mitochondrial fusion-fission in real time to determine how changes in mitochondrial dynamics contribute to structural abnormalities during hypoxia-reoxygenation. Hypoxia-reoxygenation resulted in the appearance of shorter mitochondria and a decrease in fusion activity. This fusion inhibition was a result of impaired ATP synthesis rather than Opa1 cleavage. A striking feature that appeared during hypoxia in glucose-free and during reoxygenation in glucose-containing medium was the formation of donut-shaped (toroidal) mitochondria. Donut formation was triggered by opening of the permeability transition pore or K(+) channels, which in turn caused mitochondrial swelling and partial detachment from the cytoskeleton. This then favored anomalous fusion events (autofusion and fusion at several sites among 2-3 mitochondria) to produce the characteristic donuts. Donuts effectively tolerate matrix volume increases and give rise to offspring that can regain ΔΨ(m). Thus, the metabolic stress during hypoxia-reoxygenation alters mitochondrial morphology by inducing distinct patterns of mitochondrial dynamics, which includes processes that could aid mitochondrial adaptation and functional recovery.

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