Eye Vis (Lond). 2024 Jan 16;11(1):5. doi: 10.1186/s40662-023-00362-1.
BACKGROUND: Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive disease, and one of the key metabolic abnormalities in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy, mitochondrial damage, is also influenced by the duration of hyperglycemia. Mitochondrial quality control involves a coordination of mitochondrial dynamics, biogenesis and removal of the damaged mitochondria. In diabetes, these processes are impaired, and the damaged mitochondria continue to produce free radicals. Diabetic patients also have high homocysteine and reduced levels of hydrogen sulfide, and hyperhomocysteinemia is shown to exacerbate diabetes-induced mitochondrial damage and worsen their dynamics. This study aims to investigate the temporal relationship between hyperhomocysteinemia and retinal mitochondrial quality control in diabetic retinopathy.
METHODS: Human retinal endothelial cells incubated in 20 mM D-glucose for 24 to 96 h, in the absence or presence of 100 µM homocysteine, with/without a hydrogen sulfide donor GYY4137, were analyzed for mitochondrial ROS (MitoSox fluorescence), DNA damage (transcripts of mtDNA-encoded ND6 and CytB), copy numbers, oxygen consumption rate (Seahorse XF analyzer) and mitophagy (mitophagosomes immunofluorescence labeling and flow cytometry). Results were confirmed in the retina from mice genetically manipulated for hyperhomocysteinemia (cystathionine β-synthase deficient mice, Cbs+/-), streptozotocin-induced diabetic for 8 to 24 weeks. At 24 weeks of diabetes, vascular health was evaluated by counting acellular capillaries in the trypsin digested retinal vasculature and by fluorescein angiography.
RESULTS: Homocysteine, in high glucose medium, exacerbated mitochondrial ROS production, mtDNA damage and impaired mitochondrial respiration within 24 h, and slowed down/worsened mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy, as compared to 48 to 96 h in high glucose alone. GYY4137 supplementation ameliorated homocysteine + high glucose-induced mitochondrial damage and impairment in biogenesis and mitophagy. Similar results were obtained from Cbs+/- mice-mitochondrial ROS, mtDNA damage and decline in biogenesis and mitophagy were observed within eight weeks of diabetes vs. 16 to 24 weeks of diabetes in Cbs+/+ mice, and at 24 weeks of diabetes, Cbs+/- mice had significantly higher acellular capillaries and vascular leakage.
CONCLUSIONS: Hyperhomocysteinemia, in a hyperglycemic environment, overwhelms the mitochondria, accelerating and exacerbating their dysfunction, and also delays/worsens their removal, augmenting the development of diabetic retinopathy. Thus, our results strengthen the importance of maintaining homocysteine-hydrogen sulfide balance during the early stages of diabetes for a patient to prevent/retard vision loss.