Cancer Sci 2018 Dec 16;109(12):3686-3694. Epub 2018 Nov 16.
Key Laboratory of Cancer Carcinogenesis and Invasion, Chinese Ministry of Education, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, China.
Mitochondria are the major cellular energy-producing organelles and intracellular source of reactive oxygen species. These organelles are responsible for driving cell life and death through mitochondrial network structure homeostasis, which is determined by a balance of fission and fusion. Recent advances revealed that a number of components of the fission and fusion machinery, including dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1), mitofusin1/2 (Mfn1/2) and Optic atrophy 1 (OPA1), that have been implicated in mitochondrial shape changes are indispensible for autophagy, apoptosis and necroptosis. Drp1 is the main regulator of mitochondrial fission and has become a key point of contention. The controversy focuses on whether Drp1 is directly involved in the regulation of cell death and, if involved, whether is it a stimulator or a negative regulator of cell death. Here, we examine the relevance of the homeostasis of the mitochondrial network structure in 3 different types of cell death, including autophagy, apoptosis and necroptosis. Furthermore, a variety of cancers often exhibit a fragmented mitochondrial phenotype. Thus, the fragmented ratio can reflect tumor progression that predicts prognosis and therapeutic response. In addition, we investigate whether the targeting of the mitochondrial fission protein Drp1 could be a novel therapeutic approach.