Commun Biol. 2023 Feb 24;6(1):218. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-04576-w.
Mitochondrial dysfunctions are widely afflicted in central nervous system (CNS) disorders with minimal understanding on how to improve mitochondrial homeostasis to promote neuroprotection. Here we have used human stem cell differentiated retinal ganglion cells (hRGCs) of the CNS, which are highly sensitive towards mitochondrial dysfunctions due to their unique structure and function, to identify mechanisms for improving mitochondrial quality control (MQC). We show that hRGCs are efficient in maintaining mitochondrial homeostasis through rapid degradation and biogenesis of mitochondria under acute damage. Using a glaucomatous Optineurin mutant (E50K) stem cell line, we show that at basal level mutant hRGCs possess less mitochondrial mass and suffer mitochondrial swelling due to excess ATP production load. Activation of mitochondrial biogenesis through pharmacological inhibition of the Tank binding kinase 1 (TBK1) restores energy homeostasis, mitigates mitochondrial swelling with neuroprotection against acute mitochondrial damage for glaucomatous E50K hRGCs, revealing a novel neuroprotection mechanism.