The short variant of the mitochondrial dynamin OPA1 maintains mitochondrial energetics and cristae structure

Hakjoo Lee, Sylvia B. Smith, Yisang Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


The protein optic atrophy 1 (OPA1) is a dynamin-related protein associated with the inner mitochondrial membrane and functions in mitochondrial inner membrane fusion and cristae maintenance. Inner membrane-anchored long OPA1 (L-OPA1) undergoes proteolytic cleavage resulting in short OPA1 (S-OPA1). It is often thought that S-OPA1 is a functionally insignificant proteolytic product of L-OPA1 because the accumulation of S-OPA1 due to L-OPA1 cleavage is observed in mitochondrial fragmentation and dysfunction. However, cells contain a mixture of both L- and S-OPA1 in normal conditions, suggesting the functional significance of maintaining both OPA1 forms, but the differential roles of L- and S-OPA1 in mitochondrial fusion and energetics are ill-defined. Here, we examined mitochondrial fusion and energetic activities in cells possessing L-OPA1 alone, S-OPA1 alone, or both L- and S-OPA1. Using a mitochondrial fusion assay, we established that L-OPA1 confers fusion competence, whereas S-OPA1 does not. Remarkably, we found that S-OPA1 alone without L-OPA1 can maintain oxidative phosphorylation function as judged by growth in oxidative phosphorylation-requiring media, respiration measurements, and levels of the respiratory complexes. Most strikingly, S-OPA1 alone maintained normal mitochondrial cristae structure, which has been commonly assumed to be the function of OPA1 oligomers containing both L- and S-OPA1. Furthermore, we found that the GTPase activity of OPA1 is critical for maintaining cristae tightness and thus energetic competency. Our results demonstrate that, contrary to conventional notion, S-OPA1 is fully competent for maintaining mitochondrial energetics and cristae structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7115-7130
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 28 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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