Mitochondrial elongation-mediated glucose metabolism reprogramming is essential for tumour cell survival during energy stress

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To date, mechanisms of tumour cell survival under energy stress are not well understood. Cumulative evidence is beginning to reveal that specific mitochondrial morphologies are often associated with energetic states and survival of cells. However, the functional roles of mitochondria in the metabolic adaptation of tumour cells to energy stress remain to be elucidated. In this study, we first investigated the changes in mitochondrial morphology induced by nutrition deprivation in tumour cells, and the underlying molecular mechanism. We then systematically explored glucose metabolism reprogramming by energy stress-induced alteration of mitochondrial morphology and its effect on tumour cell survival. Our results showed that starvation treatment resulted in a dramatic mitochondrial elongation, which was mainly mediated by DRP1S637 phosphorylation through protein kinase A activation and subsequent suppression of mitochondrial translocation of DRP1. We further observed that tumour cells under an energy stress condition exhibited a clear shift from glycolysis towards oxidative phosphorylation, which was reversed by the recovery of mitochondrial fission induced by forced expression of mutant DRP1S637A. Mechanistically, energy stress-induced mitochondrial elongation facilitated cristae formation and assembly of respiratory complexes to enhance oxidative phosphorylation, which in turn exhibited a feedback inhibitory effect on glycolysis through NAD+-dependent SIRT1 activation. In addition, our data indicated that DRP1S637-mediated mitochondrial elongation under energy stress was essential for tumour cell survival both in vitro and in vivo and predicted poor prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma patients. Overall, our study demonstrates that remodelling of mitochondrial morphology plays a critical role in tumour cell adaptation to energy stress by reprogramming glucose metabolism.

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