Single Mutation in the NFU1 Gene Metabolically Reprograms Pulmonary Artery Smooth Muscle Cells

Joel James, Marina Zemskova, Cody A. Eccles, Mathews V. Varghese, Maki Niihori, Natalie K. Barker, Moulun Luo, Lawrence J. Mandarino, Paul R. Langlais, Olga Rafikova, Ruslan Rafikov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: NFU1 is a mitochondrial iron-sulfur scaffold protein, involved in iron-sulfur assembly and transfer to complex II and LAS (lipoic acid synthase). Patients with the point mutation NFU1G208C and CRISPR/CAS9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat-associated 9)-generated rats develop mitochondrial dysfunction leading to pulmonary arterial hypertension. However, the mechanistic understanding of pulmonary vascular proliferation due to a single mutation in NFU1 remains unresolved. Approach and Results: Quantitative proteomics of isolated mitochondria showed the entire phenotypic transformation of NFU1G206C rats with a disturbed mitochondrial proteomic landscape, involving significant changes in the expression of 208 mitochondrial proteins. The NFU1 mutation deranged the expression pattern of electron transport proteins, resulting in a significant decrease in mitochondrial respiration. Reduced reliance on mitochondrial respiration amplified glycolysis in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell (PASMC) and activated GPD (glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase), linking glycolysis to oxidative phosphorylation and lipid metabolism. Decreased PDH (pyruvate dehydrogenase) activity due to the lipoic acid shortage is compensated by increased fatty acid metabolism and oxidation. PASMC became dependent on extracellular fatty acid sources due to upregulated transporters such as CD36 (cluster of differentiation 36) and CPT (carnitine palmitoyltransferase)-1. Finally, the NFU1 mutation produced a dysregulated antioxidant system in the mitochondria, leading to increased reactive oxygen species levels. PASMC from NFU1 rats showed apoptosis resistance, increased anaplerosis, and attained a highly proliferative phenotype. Attenuation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species by mitochondrial-targeted antioxidant significantly decreased PASMC proliferation. Conclusions: The alteration in iron-sulfur metabolism completely transforms the proteomic landscape of the mitochondria, leading toward metabolic plasticity and redistribution of energy sources to the acquisition of a proliferative phenotype by the PASMC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-754
Number of pages21
JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • glycolysis
  • metabolism
  • mitochondria
  • myocytes
  • pulmonary artery
  • smooth muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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