Mitochondria serve a critical role in physiology and disease. The genetic basis of mitochondrial regulation in mammalian cells has not yet been detailed. We performed a large-scale RNAi screen to systematically identify genes that affect mitochondrial abundance and function. This screen revealed previously unrecognized roles for >150 proteins in mitochondrial regulation. We report that increased Wnt signals are a potent activator of mitochondrial biogenesis and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, leading to DNA damage and acceleration of cellular senescence in primary cells. The signaling protein insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1), shown here to be a transcriptional target of Wnt, is induced in this setting. The increased level of IRS-1 drives activation of mitochondrial biogenesis; furthermore, in insulin-responsive cell types, it enhances insulin signaling, raising the possibility that Wnt proteins may be used to modulate glucose homeostasis. Our results identify a key component of the mitochondrial regulatory apparatus with a potentially important link to metabolic and degenerative disorders.

Wnt signaling regulates mitochondrial physiology and insulin sensitivity.

John C. Yoon, Aylwin Ng, Brian H. Kim, Antonio Bianco, Ramnik J. Xavier, and Stephen J. Elledge. Genes & Development. April 28, 2011; doi:10.1101/gad.1924910

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