Exp Eye Res. 2023 Nov 11:109721. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2023.109721. Online ahead of print.
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifaceted cytokine implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy (DR). Its activity extends through cis- and trans-signaling (TS) pathways, with cis-signaling limited to specific cell types possessing the membrane-bound IL-6 receptor, while trans-signaling broadly activates various cells without the membrane bound IL-6 receptor, including retinal endothelial cells. In this study, we determined the effects of interleukin-6 trans-signaling on mitochondrial dysfunction and cellular senescence in retinal endothelial cells. Human retinal endothelial cells (HRECs) were cultured and treated with IL-6 + soluble IL-6R or Hyper IL-6 to activate trans-signaling, and with sgp130Fc for inhibition. RT-PCR was conducted to analyze gene expression changes, primarily associated with inflammation and senescence. Cellular senescence was assessed using SA β-gal staining. Mitochondrial function was evaluated using Seahorse XFe24 Bioanalyzer. IL-6 trans-signaling induced inflammatory gene expression as indicated by the upregulation of ICAM1, MCP1, and SERPINA3 levels. Additionally, it reduced mitochondrial respiration and oxidative phosphorylation, and these effects were counteracted by sgp130Fc. Moreover, IL-6 trans-signaling led to altered expression of apoptosis-associated genes, including downregulation of FIS1, BCL2, and MCL1, while promoting cellular senescence, a phenomenon mitigated by sgp130Fc. These results not only deepen our understanding of IL-6 in DR but also carry broader implications for age-related diseases and the aging process itself. This study underscores the potential therapeutic value of targeting IL-6 trans-signaling with sgp130Fc as a promising anti-inflammatory approach for DR and potentially other inflammatory conditions. Further in-vivo investigations are warranted to elucidate the function of IL-6 trans-signaling in aging-related pathologies and overall organismal health.