Phenotypic selection with an intrabody library reveals an anti-apoptotic function of PKM2 requiring Mitofusin-1

by Tong Liu, Tomomi Kuwana, Hongkai Zhang, Matthew G. Vander Heiden, Richard A. Lerner, Donald D. Newmeyer

Bcl-2 family proteins control a decisive apoptotic event: mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP). To discover MOMP-regulating proteins, we expressed a library of intracellular single-chain variable fragments (scFvs) (“intrabodies”) and selected for those rescuing cells from apoptosis induced by BimS (the short isoform of Bim). One anti-apoptotic intrabody, intrabody 5 (IB5), recognized pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2), which is expressed in cancer cells. PKM2 deletion ablated this clonogenic rescue; thus, IB5 activated a latent cytoprotective function of PKM2. This resulted not from pyruvate kinase activity per se but rather from the formation of an active tetrameric conformation of PKM2. A stably tetrameric PKM2 mutant, K422R, promoted cell survival even in the absence of IB5, and IB5 further increased survival. Mitochondria isolated from IB5-expressing cells were relatively resistant to MOMP in vitro. In cells, IB5 expression up-regulated Mitofusin-1 (Mfn1) and increased mitochondrial length. Importantly, Mfn1 deficiency abrogated IB5’s cytoprotective effect. PKM2’s anti-apoptotic function could help explain its preferential expression in human cancer.

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