Parkinson’s disease has been linked to altered mitochondrial function. Mutations in parkin (park), the Drosophila ortholog of a human gene that is responsible for many familial cases of Parkinson’s disease, shorten life span, abolish fertility and disrupt mitochondrial structure. However, the role played by Park in mitochondrial function remains unclear. Here, we describe a novel Drosophila gene, clueless (clu), which encodes a highly conserved tetratricopeptide repeat protein that is related closely to the CluA protein of Dictyostelium, Clu1 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and to similar proteins in diverse metazoan eukaryotes from Arabidopsis to humans. Like its orthologs, loss of Drosophila clu causes mitochondria to cluster within cells. We find that strong clu mutations resemble park mutations in their effects on mitochondrial function and that the two genes interact genetically. Conversely, mitochondria in park homozygotes become highly clustered. We propose that Clu functions in a novel pathway that positions mitochondria within the cell based on their physiological state. Disruption of the Clu pathway may enhance oxidative damage, alter gene expression, cause mitochondria to cluster at microtubule plus ends, and lead eventually to mitochondrial failure.
↵2 Present address: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA