The Mitochondrial Unfolded Protein Response (UPRmt) is a compartment-specific mitochondrial quality control (MQC) mechanism that uses the transcription factor ATF5 to induce the expression of protective enzymes to restore mitochondrial function. Acute exercise is a stressor that has the potential to temporarily disrupt organellar protein homeostasis, however, the roles of ATF5 and the UPRmt in maintaining basal mitochondrial content, function and exercise-induced MQC mechanisms in skeletal muscle are not known.
ATF5 KO and WT mice were examined at rest or after a bout of acute endurance exercise. We measured protein content in whole muscle, nuclear, cytosolic and mitochondrial fractions, in addition to mRNA transcript levels in whole muscle. Using isolated mitochondria, we quantified rates of oxygen consumption and ROS emission to observe the effects of the absence of ATF5 on organelle function.
ATF5 KO mice exhibited a larger and less functional muscle mitochondrial pool, most likely a culmination of enhanced biogenesis via increased PGC-1 expression, and attenuated mitophagy. The absence of ATF5 resulted in a reduction in antioxidant proteins and increases in mitochondrial ROS emission, cytosolic cytochrome c, and the expression of mitochondrial chaperones. KO muscle also displayed enhanced exercise-induced stress kinase signaling, but a blunted mitophagic and UPRmt gene expression response, complemented by significant increases in the basal mRNA abundance and nuclear localization of ATF4. Instead of promoting its nuclear translocation, acute exercise caused the enrichment of ATF5 in mitochondrial fractions. We also identified PGC-1 as an additional regulator of the basal expression of UPRmt genes.
The transcription factor ATF5 retains a critical role in the maintenance of mitochondrial homeostasis and the appropriate response of muscle to acute exercise for the optimization of mitochondrial quality control.