Exp Eye Res. 2023 May 9:109497. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2023.109497. Online ahead of print.
Cell-to-cell mitochondria transfer via tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) has recently been revealed as a spontaneous way to protect damaged cells. Previously, we have reported mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can rescue retinal ganglion cell and corneal epithelium through intercellular mitochondrial trafficking. Mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress in corneal epithelial cells are vital in dry eye disease (DED). However, whether intercellular mitochondrial transfer is involved in the pathological and repair process of DED is currently unknown. Therefore, in this study, we designed a coculture system to evaluate the role of intercellular mitochondrial transfer between human corneal epithelial cells (CEC) in DED. In addition, we successfully discovered the ROCK inhibitor, Y-27632 as an intensifier to improve the efficiency of intercellular mitochondrial transport. As expected, the enhanced mitochondrial transfer promotes the regeneration of CECs. Moreover, through further exploration of mechanisms, it was demonstrated that F-actin-mediated cell morphological changes and cytoskeletal remodeling may be potential mechanisms for Y-27632 to induce mitochondrial metastasis. In conclusion, we established a new method for cell repair in DED that healthy CEC offered mitochondria to damaged CEC, providing a new insight into the cellular mechanism of corneal epithelium homeostatic regenerative therapeutics in DED.