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Sharma, Manish; Jarquin, Uri Nimrod Ramirez; Rivera, Oscar; Kazantzis, Melissa; Eshraghi, Mehdi; Shahani, Neelam; Sharma, Vishakha; Tapia, Ricardo; Subramaniam, Srinivasa (2019)


Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116(47):23760-23771
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Elimination of dysfunctional mitochondria via mitophagy is essential for cell survival and neuronal functions. But, how impaired mitophagy participates in tissue-specific vulnerability in the brain remains unclear. Here, we find that striatal-enriched protein, Rhes, is a critical regulator of mitophagy and striatal vulnerability in brain. In vivo interactome and density fractionation reveal that Rhes coimmunoprecipitates and cosediments with mitochondrial and lysosomal proteins. Live-cell imaging of cultured striatal neuronal cell line shows Rhes surrounds globular mitochondria, recruits lysosomes, and ultimately degrades mitochondria. In the presence of 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NP), an inhibitor of succinate dehydrogenase, Rhes disrupts mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨ ) and promotes excessive mitophagy and cell death. Ultrastructural analysis reveals that systemic injection of 3-NP in mice promotes globular mitochondria, accumulation of mitophagosomes, and striatal lesion only in the wild-type (WT), but not in the Rhes knockout (KO), striatum, suggesting that Rhes is critical for mitophagy and neuronal death in vivo. Mechanistically, Rhes requires Nix (BNIP3L), a known receptor of mitophagy, to disrupt ΔΨ and promote mitophagy and cell death. Rhes interacts with Nix via SUMO E3-ligase domain, and Nix depletion totally abrogates Rhes-mediated mitophagy and cell death in the cultured striatal neuronal cell line. Finally, we find that Rhes, which travels from cell to cell via tunneling nanotube (TNT)-like cellular protrusions, interacts with dysfunctional mitochondria in the neighboring cell in a Nix-dependent manner. Collectively, Rhes is a major regulator of mitophagy via Nix, which may determine striatal vulnerability in the brain.