Bacterial Peptides Improve Mitochondrial Function in Intestinal Tissues

Many compounds are now known to have some positive influence on mitochondrial function. The biochemistry is complex and incompletely understood. Even in the well-studied cases, there are hypotheses regarding the mechanism of action, but little certainty. In general, improvement of the quality control mechanism of mitophagy appears to be a necessary factor in the improvement of mitochondrial function in old tissues, but that appears to happen as the result of many different types of intervention. Here, researchers note that a class of bacterial peptides originating from the gut microbiome appear to improve mitochondrial function in intestinal tissue. This may be the basis for yet another type of treatment or supplement to modestly improve mitochondrial function. Those developed to date struggle to improve on the effects of exercise, however.

Mitochondrial dysfunction critically contributes to many major human diseases. The impact of specific gut microbial metabolites on mitochondrial functions of animals and the underlying mechanisms remain to be uncovered. Here, we report a profound role of bacterial peptidoglycan muropeptides in promoting mitochondrial functions in multiple mammalian models. Muropeptide addition to human intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) leads to increased oxidative respiration and ATP production and decreased oxidative stress. Strikingly, muropeptide treatment recovers mitochondrial structure and functions and inhibits several pathological phenotypes of fibroblast cells derived from patients with mitochondrial disease.

In mice, muropeptides accumulate in mitochondria of IECs and promote small intestinal homeostasis and nutrient absorption by modulating energy metabolism. Muropeptides directly bind to ATP synthase, stabilize the complex, and promote its enzymatic activity in vitro, supporting the hypothesis that muropeptides promote mitochondria homeostasis at least in part by acting as ATP synthase agonists. This study reveals a potential treatment for human mitochondrial diseases.


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