Meseguer S, Martínez-Zamora A, García-Arumí E, Andreu AL, Armengod ME
Mitochondrial dysfunction activates mitochondria-to-nucleus signaling pathways whose components are mostly unknown. Identification of these components is important to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying mitochondrial diseases and to discover putative therapeutic targets. MELAS syndrome is a rare neurodegenerative disease caused by mutations in mitochondrial (mt) DNA affecting mt-tRNA(Leu(UUR)). Patient and cybrid cells exhibit elevated oxidative stress. Moreover, mutant mt-tRNAs(Leu(UUR)) lack the taurine-containing modification normally present at the wobble uridine (U34) of wild-type mt-tRNA(Leu(UUR)), which is considered an etiology of MELAS. However, the molecular mechanism is still unclear. We found that MELAS cybrids exhibit a significant decrease in the steady-state levels of several mt-tRNA-modification enzymes, which is not due to transcriptional regulation. We demonstrated that oxidative stress mediates an NFkB-dependent induction of microRNA-9/9*, which acts as a post-transcriptional negative regulator of the mt-tRNA-modification enzymes GTPBP3, MTO1 and TRMU. Down-regulation of these enzymes by microRNA-9/9* affects the U34 modification status of non-mutant tRNAs and contributes to the MELAS phenotype. Anti-microRNA-9 treatments of MELAS cybrids reverse the phenotype, whereas miR-9 transfection of wild-type cells mimics the effects of siRNA-mediated down-regulation of GTPBP3, MTO1 and TRMU. Our data represent the first evidence that an mt-DNA disease can directly affect microRNA expression. Moreover, we demonstrate that the modification status of mt-tRNAs is dynamic and that cells respond to stress by modulating the expression of mt-tRNA-modifying enzymes. microRNA-9/9* is a crucial player in mitochondria-to-nucleus signaling as it regulates expression of nuclear genes in response to changes in the functional state of mitochondria.