Mitochondria are dynamic, undergoing both fission and fusion. Evidence indicates that a balance between these two processes is necessary to maintain a healthy state. With ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) of the heart, fission is enhanced and is associated with mitochondrial swelling, depolarization, and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), as well as apoptosis. Blocking fission is effective in reducing I/R-induced tissue damage and contractile dysfunction. In a groundbreaking study appearing in Clinical Science, Maneechote et al. assessed whether correcting the imbalance in mitochondrial dynamics with I/R by enhancing fusion would also be protective. Using a rat model, they investigated the efficacy of pharmacological intervention with mitochondrial fusion promoter-M1 (M1) given before ischemia, during ischemia, or at the onset of reperfusion. With pretreatment being the most effective, they found that M1 attenuated the incidence of arrhythmias, reduced infarct size, preserved cardiac function, and decreased mortality. M1 reduced I/R-induced increases in cytosolic cytochrome c, cleaved caspase 3, and apoptosis. All M1 groups exhibited modestly attenuated I/R-induced mitochondrial ROS levels and swelling, and preserved mitochondrial membrane potential. M1 also prevented a decrease in complex V levels with I/R. However, exactly how M1 stimulates mitochondrial fusion is unclear and other nonfusion-related actions of this phenylhydrazone compound should be considered, such as anti-oxidant actions, preconditioning signaling, or effects on putative mitochondrial connexin 43.

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