Mitochondrial inner membrane protein (Mitofilin) knockdown induces cell death by apoptosis via an AIF-PARP-dependent mechanism and cell cycle arrest

Ngonidzashe B. Madungwe, Yansheng Feng, Mihaela Lie, Nathalie Tombo, Li Liu, Ferdinand Kaya, Jean C. Bopassa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Mitofilin is an inner membrane protein that has been defined as a mitochondria-shaping protein in controlling and maintaining mitochondrial cristae structure and remodeling. We determined the role of mitofilin in cell survival by investigating the mechanism underlying mitofilin knockdown-induced cell death by apoptosis. Cultured H9c2 myoblasts and HEK 293 cells were treated with mitofilin siRNA or scrambled siRNA for 24 h. Cell death (apoptosis), caspase 3 activity and cell cycle phases were assessed by flow cytometry, while cytochrome c release and intracellular ATP production were measured by ELISA. Mitofilin, apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) expression were measured by Western blot analysis and calpain activity was assessed using a calpain activity kit. Mitochondrial images were taken using electron microscopy. We found that mitofilin knockdown increases apoptosis mainly via activation of the AIF-PARP pathway leading to nuclear fragmentation that is correlated with S phase arrest of the cell cycle. Knockdown of mitofilin also led to mitochondrial swelling and damage of cristae that is associated with the increase in reactive oxygen species production and mitochondrial calpain activity, as well as a marked decrease in intracellular ATP production and mitochondrial membrane potential. Together, these results indicate that mitofilin knockdown by siRNA increases calpain activity that presumably leads to mitochondrial structural degradation resulting in a critical reduction of mitochondrial function that is responsible for the increase in cell death by apoptosis via an AIF-PARP mechanism and associated with nuclear fragmentation, and S phase arrest of the cell cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C28-C43
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • AIF-PARP-pathway
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell cycle arrest
  • Cell death
  • H9c2 cardiomyoblast
  • HEK 293 cell line
  • Mitochondria cristae morphology and function
  • Mitochondrial inner membrane protein (mitofilin)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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