Superoxide flashes: Early mitochondrial signals for oxidative stress-induced apoptosis

Qi Ma, Huaqiang Fang, Wei Shang, Lei Liu, Zhengshuang Xu, Tao Ye, Xianhua Wang, Ming Zheng, Quan Chen, Heping Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Irreversible mitochondrial permeability transition and the resultant cytochrome c release signify the commitment of a cell to apoptotic death. However, the role of transient MPT (tMPT) because of flickering opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore remains elusive. Here we show that tMPT and the associated superoxide flashes (i.e. tMPT/superoxide flashes) constitute early mitochondrial signals during oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. Selenite (a ROS-dependent insult) but not staurosporine (a ROS-independent insult) stimulated an early and persistent increase in tMPT/superoxide flash activity prior to mitochondrial fragmentation and a global ROS rise, independently of Bax translocation and cytochrome c release. Selectively targeting tMPT/superoxide flash activity by manipulating cyclophilin D expression or scavenging mitochondrial ROS markedly impacted the progression of selenite-induced apoptosis while exerting little effect on the global ROS response. Furthermore, the tMPT/superoxide flash served as a convergence point for pro- and anti-apoptotic regulation mediated by cyclophilin D and Bcl-2 proteins. These results indicate that tMPT/ superoxide flashes act as early mitochondrial signals mediating the apoptotic response during oxidative stress, and provide the first demonstration of highly efficacious local mitochondrial ROS signaling in deciding cell fate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27573-27581
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 5 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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