Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Pharmacodynamics of Mitofusin Activation in Murine Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease Type 2A

Antonietta Franco, Xiawei Dang, Lihong Zhang, Perry B. Molinoff, Gerald W. Dorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Mitofusin (MFN) 1 and MFN2 are dynamin GTPase family mitochondrial proteins that mediate mitochondrial fusion requiring MFN conformational shifts, formation of macromolecular complexes on and between mitochondria, and GTP hydrolysis. Damaging MFN2 mutations cause an untreatable, largely pediatric progressive peripheral neuropathy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease type 2A. We used small molecule allosteric mitofusin activators that promote MFN conformations favoring fusion to interrogate the effects of MFN2 conformation and GTPase activity on MFN2-mediated mitochondrial fusion and motility in vitro. We translated these findings in vivo by defining dose-dependent pharmacodynamic and disease-modifying effects of mitofusin activators in murine CMT2A. MFN2 catalytic GTPase activity and MFN2 conformational switching are essential for mitochondrial fusion, but the two processes are separate and dissociable. We report the first concentration-response relationships for mitofusin activators to stimulate mitochondrial transport through CMT2A neuronal axons, which is similar to their stimulation of mitochondrial fusion. In CMT2A mice, intermittent (daily short acting) and sustained (twice daily long acting) mitofusin activation were equally effective in reversing neuromuscular degeneration. Moreover, acute dose-dependent pharmacodynamic effects of mitofusin activators on mitochondrial transport through CMT2A neuronal axons anticipated those for long-term reversal of neurodegenerative phenotypes. A crossover study showed that CMT2A neuronal deficits recurred after mitofusin activators are discontinued, and revealed that CMT2A can be ameliorated by mitofusin activation even in old (>74 week) mice. These data add to our understanding of mitochondrial dysfunction induced by a CMT2A MFN2 GTPase mutation and provide additional information supporting the approach of pharmacological mitofusin activation in CMT2A. SIGNIFICANCE This study interrogated the roles of MFN2 catalytic activity and allosteric activation on impaired mitochondrial fusion and neuronal transport as they impact an untreatable peripheral neuropathy caused by MFN2 mutations, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2A. The results mechanistically link mitochondrial fusion and motility to the relaxed MFN2 protein conformation and correction of mitochondrial abnormalities to in vivo reversal of neurodegeneration in murine CMT2A.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


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