Crosstalk between the nuclear epigenome and mitochondria, both in normal physiological function and in responses to environmental toxicant exposures, is a developing sub-field of interest in environmental and molecular toxicology. The majority (∼99%) of mitochondrial proteins are encoded in the nuclear genome, so programmed communication among nuclear, cytoplasmic, and mitochondrial compartments is essential for maintaining cellular health. In this review, we will focus on correlative and mechanistic evidence for direct impacts of each system on the other, discuss demonstrated or potential crosstalk in the context of chemical insult, and highlight biological research questions for future study. We will first review the two main signaling systems: nuclear signaling to the mitochondria [anterograde signaling], best described in regulation of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and mitochondrial biogenesis in response to environmental signals received by the nucleus, and mitochondrial signals to the nucleus [retrograde signaling]. Both signaling systems can communicate intracellular energy needs or a need to compensate for dysfunction to maintain homeostasis, but both can also relay inappropriate signals in the presence of dysfunction in either system and contribute to adverse health outcomes. We will first review these two signaling systems and highlight known or biologically feasible epigenetic contributions to both, then briefly discuss the emerging field of epigenetic regulation of the mitochondrial genome, and finally discuss putative “crosstalk phenotypes” including biological phenomena, such as caloric restriction, maintenance of stemness, and circadian rhythm, and states of disease or loss of function, such as cancer and aging, in which both the nuclear epigenome and mitochondria are strongly implicated.
ASJC Scopus subject areas