First published December 4, 2018 - More info
Energy stress, such as ischemia, induces mitochondrial damage and death in the heart. Degradation of damaged mitochondria by mitophagy is essential for the maintenance of healthy mitochondria and survival. Here we show that mitophagy during myocardial ischemia was mediated predominantly through autophagy characterized by Rab9-associated autophagosomes, rather than the well-characterized form of autophagy that is dependent upon the Atg-conjugation system and LC3. This form of mitophagy played an essential role in protecting the heart against ischemia and was mediated by a protein complex consisting of Ulk1, Rab9, Rip1 and Drp1. This complex allowed recruitment of trans-Golgi membranes associated with Rab9 to damaged mitochondria through Ser179 phosphorylation of Rab9 by Ulk1 and Ser616 phosphorylation of Drp1 by Rip1. Knock-in of Rab9 (S179A) abolished mitophagy and exacerbated injury in response to myocardial ischemia without affecting conventional autophagy. Mitophagy mediated through the Ulk1-Rab9-Rip1-Drp1 pathway protected the heart against ischemia by maintaining healthy mitochondria.