The one-carbon pool controls mitochondrial energy metabolism via complex I and iron-sulfur clusters

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Science Advances  19 Feb 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 8, eabf0717
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf0717


Induction of the one-carbon cycle is an early hallmark of mitochondrial dysfunction and cancer metabolism. Vital intermediary steps are localized to mitochondria, but it remains unclear how one-carbon availability connects to mitochondrial function. Here, we show that the one-carbon metabolite and methyl group donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) is pivotal for energy metabolism. A gradual decline in mitochondrial SAM (mitoSAM) causes hierarchical defects in fly and mouse, comprising loss of mitoSAM-dependent metabolites and impaired assembly of the oxidative phosphorylation system. Complex I stability and iron-sulfur cluster biosynthesis are directly controlled by mitoSAM levels, while other protein targets are predominantly methylated outside of the organelle before import. The mitoSAM pool follows its cytosolic production, establishing mitochondria as responsive receivers of one-carbon units. Thus, we demonstrate that cellular methylation potential is required for energy metabolism, with direct relevance for pathophysiology, aging, and cancer.

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