Cell Death Dis. 2023 May 20;14(5):334. doi: 10.1038/s41419-023-05851-8.
Degenerative changes of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) triggered by transforming growth factor-β2 (TGF-β2) and oxidative stress play a critical role in the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The expression of α-klotho, an antiaging protein, declines with age, increasing the risk factors for age-related diseases. Here, we investigated the protective effects of soluble α-klotho on TGF-β2-induced RPE degeneration. The morphological changes induced by TGF-β2, including epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), were attenuated in the mouse RPE by the intravitreal injection (IVT) of α-klotho. In ARPE19 cells, EMT and morphological alterations by TGF-β2 were attenuated by co-incubation with α-klotho. TGF-β2 decreased miR-200a accompanied by zinc finger e-box binding homeobox1 (ZEB1) upregulation and EMT, all of which were prevented by α-klotho co-treatment. Inhibitor of miR-200a mimicked TGF-β2-induced morphological changes, which were recovered by ZEP1 silencing, but not by α-klotho, implying the upstream regulation of α-klotho on miR-200a-ZEP1-EMT axis. α-Klotho inhibited receptor binding of TGF-β2, Smad2/3 phosphorylation, extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2)-a mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation and oxidative stress via NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4) upregulation. Furthermore, α-klotho recovered the TGF-β2-induced mitochondrial activation and superoxide generation. Interestingly, TGF-β2 upregulated α-klotho expression in the RPE cells, and genetic suppression of endogenous α-klotho aggravated TGF-β2-induced oxidative stress and EMT. Lastly, α-klotho abrogated senescence-associated signaling molecules and phenotypes induced by long-term incubation with TGF-β2. Hence, our findings indicate that the antiaging α-klotho plays a protective role against EMT and degeneration of the RPE, demonstrating the therapeutic potential for age-related retinal diseases, including the dry type of AMD.