Disrupted mitochondrial transcription factor A expression promotes mitochondrial dysfunction and enhances ocular surface inflammation by activating the absent in melanoma 2 inflammasome

Free Radic Biol Med. 2024 May 24:S0891-5849(24)00467-2. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2024.05.032. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Severe dry eye disease causes ocular surface damage, which is highly associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) is essential for packaging mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and is crucial for maintaining mitochondrial function. Herein, we aimed to explore the effect of a decreased TFAM expression on ocular surface damage.

METHODS: Female C57BL/6 mice were induced ocular surface injury by topical administrating benzalkonium chloride (BAC). Immortalized human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) were stimulated by tert-butyl hydroperoxide (t-BHP) to create oxidative stress damage. HCECs with TFAM knockdown were established. RNA sequencing was employed to analyze the whole-genome expression. Mitochondrial changes were measured by transmission electron microscopy, Seahorse metabolic flux analysis, mitochondrial membrane potential, and mtDNA copy number. TFAM expression and inflammatory cytokines were determined using RT-qPCR, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, and immunoblotting.

RESULTS: In both the corneas of BAC-treated mice and t-BHP-induced HCECs, we observed impaired TFAM expression, accompanied by mitochondrial structure and function defects. TFAM downregulation in HCECs suppressed mitochondrial respiratory capacity, reduced mtDNA content, induced mtDNA leakage into the cytoplasm, and led to inflammation. RNA sequencing revealed the absent in melanoma 2 (AIM2) inflammasome was activated in the corneas of BAC-treated mice. The AIM2 inflammasome activation was confirmed in TFAM knockdown HCECs. TFAM knockdown in t-BHP-stimulated HCECs aggravated mitochondrial dysfunction and the AIM2 inflammasome activation, thereby further triggering the secretion of inflammatory factors such as interleukin (IL) -1β and IL-18.

CONCLUSIONS: TFAM reduction impaired mitochondrial function, activated AIM2 inflammasome and promoted ocular surface inflammation, revealing an underlying molecular mechanism for ocular surface disorders.

PMID:38797339 | DOI:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2024.05.032