Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2023 Sep 8;11(1):146. doi: 10.1186/s40478-023-01642-6.
Retinal ganglion cells are highly metabolically active requiring strictly regulated metabolism and functional mitochondria to keep ATP levels in physiological range. Imbalances in metabolism and mitochondrial mechanisms can be sufficient to induce a depletion of ATP, thus altering retinal ganglion cell viability and increasing cell susceptibility to death under stress. Altered metabolism and mitochondrial abnormalities have been demonstrated early in many optic neuropathies, including glaucoma, autosomal dominant optic atrophy, and Leber hereditary optic neuropathy. Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is a quinone cofactor and is reported to have numerous effects on cellular and mitochondrial metabolism. However, the reported effects are highly context-dependent, indicating the need to study the mechanism of PQQ in specific systems. We investigated whether PQQ had a neuroprotective effect under different retinal ganglion cell stresses and assessed the effect of PQQ on metabolic and mitochondrial processes in cortical neuron and retinal ganglion cell specific contexts. We demonstrated that PQQ is neuroprotective in two models of retinal ganglion cell degeneration. We identified an increased ATP content in healthy retinal ganglion cell-related contexts both in in vitro and in vivo models. Although PQQ administration resulted in a moderate effect on mitochondrial biogenesis and content, a metabolic variation in non-diseased retinal ganglion cell-related tissues was identified after PQQ treatment. These results suggest the potential of PQQ as a novel neuroprotectant against retinal ganglion cell death.