J Control Release. 2023 Nov 14:S0168-3659(23)00738-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2023.11.021. Online ahead of print.
Dry eye disease (DED) is a multifactorial ocular surface disorder mutually promoted by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and ocular surface inflammation. NLRP3 is the key regulator for inducing ocular surface inflammation in DED. However, the mechanism by which ROS influences the bio-effects of NLRP3, and the consequent development of DED, largely remains elusive. In the present study, we uncovered that robust ROS can oxidate mitochondrial DNA (ox-mtDNA) along with loss of mitochondria compaction causing the cytosolic release of ox-mtDNA and subsequent co-localization with cytosolic NLRP3, which can promote the activation of NLRP3 inflammasome and stimulate NLRP3-mediated inflammation. Visomitin (also known as SkQ1), a mitochondria-targeted anti-oxidant, could reverse such a process by in situ scavenging of mitochondrial ROS. To effectively deliver SkQ1, we further developed a novel mitochondria-targeted SkQ1 nanoparticle (SkQ1 NP) using a charge-driven self-assembly strategy. Compared with free SkQ1, SkQ1 NPs exhibited significantly higher cytosolic- and mitochondrial-ROS scavenging activity (1.7 and 1.9 times compared to levels of the free SkQ1 group), thus exerting a better in vitro protective effect against H2O2-induced cell death in human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs). After topical administration, SkQ1 NPs significantly reduced in vivo mtDNA oxidation, while suppressing the expressions of NLRP3, Caspase-1, and IL-1β, which consequently resulted in better therapeutic effects against DED. Results suggested that by efficiently scavenging mitochondrial ROS, SkQ1 NPs could in situ inhibit DED-induced mtDNA oxidation, thus blocking the interaction of ox-mtDNA and NLRP3; this, in turn, suppressed NLRP3 inflammasome activation and NLRP3-mediated inflammatory signaling. Results suggested that SkQ1 NPs have great potential as a new treatment for DED.