BACKGROUND: Phosphatidylethanolamine is proposed to regulate mitochondrial fusion, but its mechanism of action is unknown. RESULTS: Decreasing phosphatidylethanolamine reduces the rate of lipid mixing and the biogenesis of Mgm1, a mitochondrial fusion protein. CONCLUSIONS: Psd1 regulates the lipid and protein machineries of mitochondrial fusion. CONCLUSIONS: Understanding how lipid metabolism regulates mitochondrial dynamics will reveal its role in cellular functions such as apoptosis and autophagy. Non-bilayer-forming lipids such as cardiolipin, phosphatidic acid, and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) are proposed to generate negative membrane curvature, promoting membrane fusion. However, the mechanism by which lipids regulate mitochondrial fusion remains poorly understood. Here, we show that mitochondrial-localized Psd1, the key yeast enzyme that synthesizes PE, is required for proper mitochondrial morphology and fusion. Yeast cells lacking Psd1 exhibit fragmented and aggregated mitochondria with impaired mitochondrial fusion during mating. More importantly, we demonstrate that a reduction in PE reduces the rate of lipid mixing during fusion of liposomes with lipid compositions reflecting the mitochondrial membrane. This suggests that the mitochondrial fusion defect in the ?psd1 strain could be due to the altered biophysical properties of the mitochondrial membrane, resulting in reduced fusion kinetics. The ?psd1 strain also has impaired mitochondrial activity such as oxidative phosphorylation and reduced mitochondrial ATP levels which are due to a reduction in mitochondrial PE. The loss of Psd1 also impairs the biogenesis of s-Mgm1, a protein essential for mitochondrial fusion, further exacerbating the mitochondrial fusion defect of the ?psd1 strain. Increasing s-Mgm1 levels in ?psd1 cells markedly reduced mitochondrial aggregation. Our results demonstrate that mitochondrial PE regulates mitochondrial fusion by regulating the biophysical properties of the mitochondrial membrane and by enhancing the biogenesis of s-Mgm1. While several proteins are required to orchestrate the intricate process of membrane fusion, we propose that specific phospholipids of the mitochondrial membrane promote fusion by enhancing lipid mixing kinetics and by regulating the action of profusion proteins.
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