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Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 27;7(1):6656. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-06523-2.

Activation of mitophagy leads to decline in Mfn2 and loss of mitochondrial mass in Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy.

Author information

1
Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
2
Price Vision Group, Indianapolis, IN, USA.
3
Department of Ophthalmology, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.
4
Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. ula_jurkunas@meei.harvard.edu.

Abstract

Human corneal endothelial cells (HCEnCs) are terminally differentiated cells that have limited regenerative potential. The large numbers of mitochondria in HCEnCs are critical for pump and barrier function required for corneal hydration and transparency. Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy (FECD) is a highly prevalent late-onset oxidative stress disorder characterized by progressive loss of HCEnCs. We previously reported increased mitochondrial fragmentation and reduced ATP and mtDNA copy number in FECD. Herein, carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenyl hydrazone (CCCP)-induced mitochondrial depolarization decreased mitochondrial mass and Mfn2 levels, which were rescued with mitophagy blocker, bafilomycin, in FECD. Moreover, electron transport chain complex (I, V) decrease in FECD indicated deficient mitochondrial bioenergetics. Transmission electron microscopy of FECD tissues displayed an increased number of autophagic vacuoles containing degenerated and swollen mitochondria with cristolysis. An elevation of LC3-II and LAMP1 and downregulation of Mfn2 in mitochondrial fractions suggested that loss of fusion capacity targets fragmented mitochondria to the pre-autophagic pool and upregulates mitophagy. CCCP-induced mitochondrial fragmentation leads to Mfn2 and LC3 co-localization without activation of proteosome, suggesting a novel Mfn2 degradation pathway via mitophagy. These data indicate constitutive activation of mitophagy results in reduction of mitochondrial mass and abrogates cellular bioenergetics during degeneration of post-mitotic cells of ocular tissue.

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