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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e31074. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031074. Epub 2012 Jan 26.

Role of mitofusin 2 in the renal stress response.

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Renal Section, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.


The role of mitofusin 2 (MFN2), a key regulator of mitochondrial morphology and function in the renal stress response is unknown. To assess its role, the MFN2 floxed gene was conditionally deleted in the kidney of mice (MFN2 cKO) by Pax2 promoter driven Cre expression (Pax2Cre). MFN2 cKO caused severe mitochondrial fragmentation in renal epithelial cells that are critical for normal kidney tubular function. However, despite a small (20%) decrease in nephron number, newborn cKO pups had organ or tubular function that did not differ from littermate Cre-negative pups. MFN2 deficiency in proximal tubule epithelial cells in primary culture induced mitochondrial fragmentation but did not significantly alter ATP turnover, maximal mitochondrial oxidative reserve capacity, or the low level of oxygen consumption during cyanide exposure. MFN2 deficiency also did not increase apoptosis of tubule epithelial cells under non-stress conditions. In contrast, metabolic stress caused by ATP depletion exacerbated mitochondrial outer membrane injury and increased apoptosis by 80% in MFN2 deficient vs. control cells. Despite similar stress-induced Bax 6A7 epitope exposure in MFN2 deficient and control cells, MFN2 deficiency significantly increased mitochondrial Bax accumulation and was associated with greater release of both apoptosis inducing factor and cytochrome c. In conclusion, MFN2 deficiency in the kidney causes mitochondrial fragmentation but does not affect kidney or tubular function during development or under non-stress conditions. However, MFN2 deficiency exacerbates renal epithelial cell injury by promoting Bax-mediated mitochondrial outer membrane injury and apoptosis.

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