Alleviation of Photoreceptor Degeneration Based on Fullerenols in rd1 Mice by Reversing Mitochondrial Dysfunction via Modulation of Mitochondrial DNA Transcription and Leakage

Small. 2023 Jul 5:e2205998. doi: 10.1002/smll.202205998. Online ahead of print.


Poor therapeutic outcomes of antioxidants in ophthalmologic clinical applications, including glutathione during photoreceptor degeneration in retinitis pigmentosa (RP), are caused by limited anti-oxidative capacity. In this study, fullerenols are synthesized and proven to be highly efficient in vitro radical scavengers. Fullerenol-based intravitreal injections significantly improve the flash electroretinogram and light/dark transition tests performed for 28 days on rd1 mice, reduce the thinning of retinal outer nuclear layers, and preserve the Rhodopsin, Gnat-1, and Arrestin expressions of photoreceptors. RNA-sequencing, RT-qPCR, and Western blotting validate that mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA)-encoded genes of the electron transport chain (ETC), such as mt-Nd4l, mt-Co1, mt-Cytb, and mt-Atp6, are drastically downregulated in the retinas of rd1 mice, whereas nuclear DNA (n-DNA)-encoded genes, such as Ndufa1 and Atp5g3, are abnormally upregulated. Fullerenols thoroughly reverse the abnormal mt-DNA and n-DNA expression patterns of the ETC and restore mitochondrial function in degenerating photoreceptors. Additionally, fullerenols simultaneously repress Flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1)-mediated mt-DNA cleavage and mt-DNA leakage via voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) pores by downregulating the transcription of Fen1 and Vdac1, thereby inactivating the downstream pro-inflammatory cGAS-STING pathway. These findings demonstrate that fullerenols can effectively alleviate photoreceptor degeneration in rd1 mice and serve as a viable treatment for RP.

PMID:37407519 | DOI:10.1002/smll.202205998