Cells engage complex surveillance mechanisms to maintain mitochondrial function and protein homeostasis. LonP1 protease is a key component of mitochondrial quality control and has been implicated in human malignancies and other pathological disorders. Here, we employed two experimental systems, the worm Caenorhabditis elegans and human cancer cells, to investigate and compare the effects of LONP-1/LonP1 deficiency at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Deletion of the lonp-1
gene in worms disturbed mitochondrial function, provoked reactive oxygen species accumulation, and impaired normal processes, such as growth, behavior, and lifespan. The viability of lonp-1
mutants was dependent on the activity of the ATFS-1 transcription factor, and loss of LONP-1 evoked retrograde signaling that involved both the mitochondrial and cytoplasmic unfolded protein response (UPRmt and UPRcyt) pathways and ensuing diverse organismal stress responses. Exposure of worms to triterpenoid CDDO-Me, an inhibitor of human LonP1, stimulated only UPRcyt responses. In cancer cells, CDDO-Me induced key components of the integrated stress response (ISR), the UPRmt and UPRcyt pathways, and the redox machinery. However, genetic knockdown of LonP1 revealed a genotype-specific cellular response and induced apoptosis similar to CDDO-Me treatment. Overall, the mitochondrial dysfunction ensued by disruption of LonP1 elicits adaptive cytoprotective mechanisms that can inhibit cancer cell survival but diversely modulate organismal stress response and aging.