Molecular mechanisms of cell death: Central implication of ATP synthase in mitochondrial permeability transition
Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases
The term mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) is commonly used to indicate an abrupt increase in the permeability of the inner mitochondrial membrane to low molecular weight solutes. Widespread MPT has catastrophic consequences for the cell, de facto marking the boundary between cellular life and death. MPT results indeed in the structural and functional collapse of mitochondria, an event that commits cells to suicide via regulated necrosis or apoptosis. MPT has a central role in the etiology of both acute and chronic diseases characterized by the loss of post-mitotic cells. Moreover, cancer cells are often relatively insensitive to the induction of MPT, underlying their increased resistance to potentially lethal cues. Thus, intense efforts have been dedicated not only at the understanding of MPT in mechanistic terms, but also at the development of pharmacological MPT modulators. In this setting, multiple mitochondrial and extramitochondrial proteins have been suspected to critically regulate the MPT. So far, however, only peptidylprolyl isomerase F (best known as cyclophilin D) appears to constitute a key component of the so-called permeability transition pore complex (PTPC), the supramolecular entity that is believed to mediate MPT. Here, after reviewing the structural and functional features of the PTPC, we summarize recent findings suggesting that another of its core components is represented by the c subunit of mitochondrial ATP synthase.