Glutaminase deficiency in rod photoreceptors disrupts nonessential amino acid levels to activate the integrated stress response and induce rapid degeneration

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Mar 27:2024.03.26.582525. doi: 10.1101/2024.03.26.582525.


The bioenergetic demand of photoreceptors rivals that of cancer cells, and numerous metabolic similarities exist between these cells. Glutamine (Gln) anaplerosis via the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle provides biosynthetic intermediates and is a hallmark of cancer metabolism. In this process, Gln is first converted to glutamate via glutaminase (GLS), which is a crucial pathway in many cancer cells. To date, no study has been undertaken to examine the role of Gln metabolism in vivo in photoreceptors. Here, mice lacking GLS in rod photoreceptors were generated. Animals lacking GLS experienced rapid photoreceptor degeneration with concomitant functional loss. Gln has multiple roles in metabolism including redox balance, biosynthesis of nucleotides and amino acids, and supplementing the TCA cycle. Few alterations were noted in redox balance. Unlabeled targeted metabolomics demonstrated few changes in glycolytic and TCA cycle intermediates, which corresponded with a lack of significant changes in mitochondrial function. GLS deficiency in rod photoreceptors did decrease the fractional labelling of TCA cycle intermediates when provided uniformly labeled 13C-Gln in vivo. However, supplementation with alpha-ketoglutarate provided only marginal rescue of photoreceptor degeneration. Nonessential amino acids, glutamate and aspartate, were decreased in the retina of mice lacking GLS in rod photoreceptors. In accordance with this amino acid deprivation, the integrated stress response (ISR) was found to be activated with decreased global protein synthesis. Importantly, supplementation with asparagine delayed photoreceptor degeneration to a greater degree than alpha-ketoglutarate. These data show that GLS-mediated Gln catabolism is essential for rod photoreceptor amino acid biosynthesis, function, and survival.

PMID:38586045 | PMC:PMC10996599 | DOI:10.1101/2024.03.26.582525