IF1 Promotes Cellular Proliferation and Inhibits Oxidative Phosphorylation in Mouse Embryonic Fibroblasts under Normoxia and Hypoxia

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ATP synthase inhibitory factor subunit 1 (IF1) is an inhibitory subunit of mitochondrial ATP synthase, playing a crucial role in regulating mitochondrial respiration and energetics. It is well-established that IF1 interacts with the F1 sector of ATP synthase to inhibit the reversal rotation and, thus, ATP hydrolysis. Recent evidence supports that IF1 also inhibits forward rotation or the ATP synthesis activity. Adding to the complexity, IF1 may also facilitate mitophagy and cristae formation. The implications of these complex actions of IF1 for cellular function remain obscure. In the present study, we found that IF1 expression was markedly upregulated in hypoxic MEFs relative to normoxic MEFs. We investigate how IF1 affects cellular growth and function in cultured mouse embryonic fibroblasts derived from mouse lines with systemic IF1 overexpression and knockout under normoxia and hypoxia. Cell survival and proliferation analyses revealed that IF1 overexpression exerted limited effects on cellular viability but substantially increased proliferation under normoxia, whereas it facilitated both cellular viability and proliferation under hypoxia. The absence of IF1 may have a pro-survival effect but not a proliferative one in both normoxia and hypoxia. Cellular bioenergetic analyses revealed that IF1 suppressed cellular respiration when subjected to normoxia and was even more pronounced when subjected to hypoxia with increased mitochondrial ATP production. In contrast, IF1 knockout MEFs showed markedly increased cellular respiration under both normoxia and hypoxia with little change in mitochondrial ATP. Glycolytic stress assay revealed that IF1 overexpression modestly increased glycolysis in normoxia and hypoxia. Interestingly, the absence of IF1 in MEFs led to substantial increases in glycolysis. Therefore, we conclude that IF1 mainly inhibits cellular respiration and enhances cellular glycolysis to preserve mitochondrial ATP. On the other hand, IF1 deletion can significantly facilitate cellular respiration and glycolysis without leading to mitochondrial ATP deficit.

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