A reaction-diffusion model of ROS-induced ROS release in a mitochondrial network

Lufang Zhou, Miguel Antonio Aon, Tabish Almas, Sonia Carmen Cortassa, Raimond L. Winslow, Brian O'Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Loss of mitochondrial function is a fundamental determinant of cell injury and death. In heart cells under metabolic stress, we have previously described how the abrupt collapse or oscillation of the mitochondrial energy state is synchronized across the mitochondrial network by local interactions dependent upon reactive oxygen species (ROS). Here, we develop a mathematical model of ROS-induced ROS release (RIRR) based on reaction-diffusion (RD-RIRR) in one- and two-dimensional mitochondrial networks. The nodes of the RD-RIRR network are comprised of models of individual mitochondria that include a mechanism of ROS-dependent oscillation based on the interplay between ROS production, transport, and scavenging; and incorporating the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, and Ca2+ handling. Local mitochondrial interaction is mediated by superoxide (O2.-) diffusion and the O2.--dependent activation of an inner membrane anion channel (IMAC). In a 2D network composed of 500 mitochondria, model simulations reveal ΔΨm depolarization waves similar to those observed when isolated guinea pig cardiomyocytes are subjected to a localized laserflash or antioxidant depletion. The sensitivity of the propagation rate of the depolarization wave to O2.- diffusion, production, and scavenging in the reaction-diffusion model is similar to that observed experimentally. In addition, we present novel experimental evidence, obtained in permeabilized cardiomyocytes, confirming that DYm depolarization is mediated specifically by O2.-. The present work demonstrates that the observed emergent macroscopic properties of the mitochondrial network can be reproduced in a reaction-diffusion model of RIRR. Moreover, the findings have uncovered a novel aspect of the synchronization mechanism, which is that clusters of mitochondria that are oscillating can entrain mitochondria that would otherwise display stable dynamics. The work identifies the fundamental mechanisms leading from the failure of individual organelles to the whole cell, thus it has important implications for understanding cell death during the progression of heart disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1000657
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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