J Biol Chem. 2023 Sep 8:105239. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2023.105239. Online ahead of print.
Hyperosmolarity of the ocular surface triggers inflammation and pathological damage in dry eye disease (DED). In addition to a reduction in quality of life, DED causes vision loss and when severe, blindness. Mitochondrial dysfunction occurs as a consequence of hyperosmolar stress. We have previously reported on a role for the insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) in the regulation of mitochondrial ultrastructure and metabolism in mucosal surface epithelial cells; however, this appears to be context specific. Due to the finding that IGFBP-3 expression is decreased in response to hyperosmolar stress in vitro and in an animal model of DED, we next sought to determine whether the hyperosmolar stress-mediated decrease in IGFBP-3 alters mitophagy, a key mitochondrial quality control mechanism. Here we show that hyperosmolar stress induces mitophagy through differential regulation of BNIP3L/NIX and PINK1-mediated pathways. In corneal epithelial cells, this was independent of p62. The addition of exogenous IGFBP-3 abrogated the increase in mitophagy. This occurred through regulation of mTOR, highlighting the existence of a new IGFBP-3-mTOR signaling pathway. Together, these findings support a novel role for IGFBP-3 in mediating mitochondrial quality control in DED and have broad implications for epithelial tissues subject to hyperosmolar stress and other mitochondrial diseases.