PLoS One. 2023 May 2;18(5):e0273882. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0273882. eCollection 2023.
Mitochondrial decline is a key feature of ageing. The retina has more mitochondria than any other tissue and ages rapidly. To understand human retinal ageing it is critical to examine old world primates that have similar visual systems to humans, and do so across central and peripheral regions, as there is evidence for early central decline. Hence, we examine mitochondrial metrics in young and ageing Macaca fascicularis retinae. In spite of reduced ATP with age, primate mitochondrial complex activity did not decline. But mitochondrial membrane potentials were reduced significantly, and concomitantly, mitochondrial membrane permeability increased. The mitochondrial marker Tom20 declined significantly, consistent with reduced mitochondria number, while VDAC, a voltage dependent anion channel and diffusion pore associated with apoptosis increased significantly. In spite of these clear age-related changes, there was almost no evidence for regional differences between the centre and the periphery in these mitochondrial metrics. Primate cones do not die with age, but many showed marked structural decline with vacuous spaces in proximal inner segments normally occupied by endoplasmic reticulum (ER), that regulate mitochondrial autophagy. In many peripheral cones, ER was displaced by the nucleus that transposed across the outer limiting membrane and could become embedded in mitochondrial populations. These data are consistent with significant changes in retinal mitochondria in old world primate ageing but provide little if any evidence that aged central mitochondria suffer more than those in the periphery.