Featured projects (1)

Project
Our goals are to characterize the biosynthesis of coenzyme Q and to understand its functions. Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's yeast) is used as a model to study the production, function and regulation of coenzyme Q in eukaryotic cells.

Featured research (2)

Coenzyme Q (CoQ) is an essential component of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and an important antioxidant present in all cellular membranes. CoQ deficiencies are frequent in aging and in age-related diseases, and current treatments are limited to CoQ supplementation. Strategies that rely on CoQ supplementation suffer from poor uptake and trafficking of this very hydrophobic molecule. In a previous study, the dietary flavonol kaempferol was reported to serve as a CoQ ring precursor and to increase the CoQ content in kidney cells, but neither the part of the molecule entering CoQ biosynthesis nor the mechanism were described. In this study, kaempferol labeled specifically in the B-ring was isolated from Arabidopsis plants. Kidney cells treated with this compound incorporated the B-ring of kaempferol into newly synthesized CoQ, suggesting that the B-ring is metabolized via a mechanism described in plant cells. Kaempferol is a natural flavonoid present in fruits and vegetables and possesses antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory therapeutic properties. A better understanding of the role of kaempferol as a CoQ ring precursor makes this bioactive compound a potential candidate for the design of interventions aiming to increase endogenous CoQ biosynthesis and may improve CoQ deficient phenotypes in aging and disease.
Coenzyme Q (CoQ) is an essential player in the respiratory electron transport chain and is the only lipid-soluble antioxidant synthesized endogenously in mammalian and yeast cells. In humans, genetic mutations, pathologies, certain medical treatments, and aging, result in CoQ deficiencies, which are linked to mitochondrial, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases. The only strategy available for these patients is CoQ supplementation. CoQ supplements benefit a small subset of patients, but the poor solubility of CoQ greatly limits treatment efficacy. Consequently, the efficient delivery of CoQ to the mitochondria and restoration of respiratory function remains a major challenge. A better understanding of CoQ uptake and mitochondrial delivery is crucial to make this molecule a more efficient and effective therapeutic tool. In this study, we investigated the mechanism of CoQ uptake and distribution using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model organism. The addition of exogenous CoQ was tested for the ability to restore growth on non-fermentable medium in several strains that lack CoQ synthesis (coq mutants). Surprisingly, we discovered that the presence of CoQ biosynthetic intermediates impairs assimilation of CoQ into a functional respiratory chain in yeast cells. Moreover, a screen of 40 gene deletions considered to be candidates to prevent exogenous CoQ from rescuing growth of the CoQ-less coq2Δ mutant, identified six novel genes (CDC10, RTS1, RVS161, RVS167, VPS1, and NAT3) as necessary for efficient trafficking of CoQ to mitochondria. The proteins encoded by these genes represent essential steps in the pathways responsible for transport of exogenously supplied CoQ to its functional sites in the cell, and definitively associate CoQ distribution with endocytosis and intracellular vesicular trafficking pathways conserved from yeast to human cells.

Lab head

Catherine Clarke
Department
  • Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Members (2)

Lucía Fernández del Río
  • University of California, Los Angeles
Anish Nag
  • University of California, Los Angeles
Michelle C. Bradley
Michelle C. Bradley
  • Not confirmed yet
Hui S. Tsui
Hui S. Tsui
  • Not confirmed yet