High pressure-induced mtDNA alterations in retinal ganglion cells and subsequent apoptosis

Sheng Hai Zhang, Feng Juan Gao, Zhong Mou Sun, Ping Xu, Jun Yi Chen, Xing Huai Sun, Ji Hong Wu, Hansen Wang, Stephanie C. Joachim, Colin Barnstable

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15 Scopus citations


Purpose: Our previous study indicated that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage and mutations are crucial to the progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in a glaucomatous rat model. In this study, we examined whether high pressure could directly cause mtDNA alterations and whether the latter could lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and RGC death. Methods: Primary cultured rat RGCs were exposed to 30 mm Hg of hydrostatic pressure (HP) for 12, 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120 h. mtDNA alterations and mtDNA repair/replication enzymes OGG1, MYH and polymerase gamma (POLG) expressions were also analyzed. The RGCs were then infected with a lentiviral small hairpin RNA (shRNA) expression vector targeting POLG (POLG-shRNA), and mtDNA alterations as well as mitochondrial function, including complex I/III activities and ATP production were subsequently studied at appropriate times. Finally, RGC apoptosis and the mitochondrial-apoptosis pathway-related protein cleaved caspase-3 were detected using a Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) assay and western blotting, respectively. Results: mtDNA damage was observed as early as 48 h after the exposure of RGCs to HP. At 120 h after HP, mtDNA damage and mutations significantly increased, reaching >40% and 4.8 ± 0.3-fold, respectively, compared with the control values. Twelve hours after HP, the expressions of OGG1, MYH and POLG mRNA in the RGCs were obviously increased 5.02 ± 0.6-fold (p < 0.01), 4.3 ± 0.2-fold (p < 0.05), and 0.8 ± 0.09-fold (p < 0.05). Western blot analysis showed that the protein levels of the three enzymes decreased at 72 and 120 h after HP (p < 0.05). After interference with POLG-shRNA, the mtDNA damage and mutations were significantly increased (p < 0.01), while complex I/III activities gradually decreased (p < 0.05). Corresponding decreases in membrane potential and ATP production appeared at 5 and 6 days after POLG-shRNA transfection respectively (p < 0.05). Increases in the apoptosis of RGCs and cleaved caspase-3 protein expression were observed after mtDNA damage and mutations. Conclusions: High pressures could directly cause mtDNA alterations, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction and RGC death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number254
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Issue numberNOV2016
StatePublished - Nov 24 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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