Send to

Choose Destination
Cell Res. 2018 Mar;28(3):296-306. doi: 10.1038/cr.2018.17. Epub 2018 Feb 16.

m-AAA proteases, mitochondrial calcium homeostasis and neurodegeneration.

Author information

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging, Cologne, Germany.
Cologne Excellence Cluster on Cellular Stress Response in Aging-Associated Disease (CECAD), and Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC), University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.


The function of mitochondria depends on ubiquitously expressed and evolutionary conserved m-AAA proteases in the inner membrane. These ATP-dependent peptidases form hexameric complexes built up of homologous subunits. AFG3L2 subunits assemble either into homo-oligomeric isoenzymes or with SPG7 (paraplegin) subunits into hetero-oligomeric proteolytic complexes. Mutations in AFG3L2 are associated with dominant spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA28) characterized by the loss of Purkinje cells, whereas mutations in SPG7 cause a recessive form of hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP7) with motor neurons of the cortico-spinal tract being predominantly affected. Pleiotropic functions have been assigned to m-AAA proteases, which act as quality control and regulatory enzymes in mitochondria. Loss of m-AAA proteases affects mitochondrial protein synthesis and respiration and leads to mitochondrial fragmentation and deficiencies in the axonal transport of mitochondria. Moreover m-AAA proteases regulate the assembly of the mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU) complex. Impaired degradation of the MCU subunit EMRE in AFG3L2-deficient mitochondria results in the formation of deregulated MCU complexes, increased mitochondrial calcium uptake and increased vulnerability of neurons for calcium-induced cell death. A reduction of calcium influx into the cytosol of Purkinje cells rescues ataxia in an AFG3L2-deficient mouse model. In this review, we discuss the relationship between the m-AAA protease and mitochondrial calcium homeostasis and its relevance for neurodegeneration and describe a novel mouse model lacking MCU specifically in Purkinje cells. Our results pledge for a novel view on m-AAA proteases that integrates their pleiotropic functions in mitochondria to explain the pathogenesis of associated neurodegenerative disorders.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center