VDAC oligomers form mitochondrial pores to release mtDNA fragments and promote lupus-like disease

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Science  20 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6472, pp. 1531-1536
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav4011

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VDACs are MOM's ruin

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is normally kept within the mitochondria. It can be released into the cytosol in response to stress and thus encounter cytosolic DNA sensors, triggering type I interferon responses. During apoptosis, mtDNA release is mediated by macropores in the mitochondrial outer membrane (MOM) created by oligomerization of the proteins BAX and BAK. Kim et al. found that during oxidative stress, mtDNA escapes instead through macropores formed by oligomerization of voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs) (see the Perspective by Crow). In a mouse model of lupus, an inhibitor of VDAC oligomerization diminished mtDNA release and downstream signaling events. This treatment reduced lupus-like symptoms in the model, suggesting a potential therapeutic route for conditions mediated by mtDNA release.

Science, this issue p. 1531; see also p. 1445


Mitochondrial stress releases mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) into the cytosol, thereby triggering the type Ι interferon (IFN) response. Mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, which is required for mtDNA release, has been extensively studied in apoptotic cells, but little is known about its role in live cells. We found that oxidatively stressed mitochondria release short mtDNA fragments via pores formed by the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) oligomers in the mitochondrial outer membrane. Furthermore, the positively charged residues in the N-terminal domain of VDAC1 interact with mtDNA, promoting VDAC1 oligomerization. The VDAC oligomerization inhibitor VBIT-4 decreases mtDNA release, IFN signaling, neutrophil extracellular traps, and disease severity in a mouse model of systemic lupus erythematosus. Thus, inhibiting VDAC oligomerization is a potential therapeutic approach for diseases associated with mtDNA release.

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