Mitochondria–nucleus (mitonuclear) retrograde signaling via nuclear import of otherwise mitochondrial targeted factors occurs during mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt
), a mechanism that counters mitochondrial and cellular stresses. Other than nuclear encoded proteins, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)-encoded peptides, such as humanin, are known to have important pro-survival and metabolic regulatory functions. A recent report has indicated that another mtDNA-encoded peptide, the mitochondrial open reading frame of the 12S rRNA-c (MOTS-c), could translocate into the nucleus upon stress induction. In the nucleus, MOTS-c binds to DNA and regulates the transcription of stress response genes in concert with other transcription factors. This is the first clear example of a mitochondria-derived peptide (MDP) acting in the nucleus to affect transcriptional responses to stress. Thus, MOTS-c may bear some characteristics of a ‘mitokine’ factor that mediates mitohormesis, influencing cell survival as well as organismal health and longevity.
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