The uprmt protects caenorhabditis elegans from mitochondrial dysfunction by upregulating specific enzymes of the mevalonate pathway

Olga Oks, Shany Lewin, Irina Langier Goncalves, Amir Sapir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mevalonate pathway is the primary target of the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins, some of the most widely prescribed medicines of all time. The pathway’s enzymes not only catalyze the synthesis of cholesterol but also of diverse metabolites such as mitochondrial electron carriers and isoprenyls. Recently, it has been shown that one type of mitochondrial stress response, the UPRmt, can protect yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans, and cultured human cells from the deleterious effects of mevalonate pathway inhibition by statins. The mechanistic basis for this protection, however, remains unknown. Using C. elegans, we found that the UPRmt does not directly affect the levels of the statin target HMG-CoA reductase, the rate-controlling enzyme of the mevalonate pathway in mammals. Instead, in C. elegans the UPRmt upregulates the first dedicated enzyme of the pathway, HMG-CoA synthase (HMGS-1). A targeted RNA interference (RNAi) screen identified two UPRmt transcription factors, ATFS-1 and DVE-1, as regulators of HMGS-1. A comprehensive analysis of the pathway’s enzymes found that, in addition to HMGS-1, the UPRmt upregulates enzymes involved with the biosynthesis of electron carriers and geranylgeranylation intermediates. Geranylgeranylation, in turn, is requisite for the full execution of the UPRmt 3response. Thus, the UPRmt acts in at least three coordinated, compensatory arms to upregulate specific branches of the mevalonate pathway, thereby alleviating mitochondrial stress. We propose that statin-mediated inhibition of the mevalonate pathway blocks this compensatory system of the UPRmt and consequentially impedes mitochondrial homeostasis. This effect is likely one of the principal bases for the adverse side effects of statins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-473
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Genetics Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • Cholesterol
  • Mevalonate pathway
  • Mitochondrial stress
  • Statins
  • UPR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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