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Ghulam Mohammad, Rakesh Radhakrishnan, Renu A. Kowluru; Epigenetic Modifications Compromise Mitochondrial DNA Quality Control in the Development of Diabetic Retinopathy. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(12):3943-3951. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.19-27602.
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Diabetes causes dysfunction in the retinal mitochondria and increases base mismatches in their DNA (mtDNA). The enzyme responsible for repairing the base mismatches, MutL homolog 1 (Mlh1), is compromised. Diabetes also favors many epigenetic modifications and activates DNA methylation machinery, and Mlh1 has a CpG-rich promoter. Our aim is to identify the molecular mechanism responsible for impaired mtDNA mismatch repair in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy.
Human retinal endothelial cells, incubated in 20 mM glucose, were analyzed for mitochondrial localization of Mlh1 by an immunofluorescence technique, Mlh1 promoter DNA methylation by the methylated DNA capture method, and the binding of Dnmt1 and transcriptional factor Sp1 by chromatin immunoprecipitation. The results were confirmed in retinal microvessels from streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice, with or without Dnmt inhibitors, and from human donors with diabetic retinopathy.
Compared with cells in 5 mM glucose, high glucose decreased Mlh1 mitochondrial localization, and its promoter DNA was hypermethylated with increased Dnmt-1 binding and decreased Sp1 binding. Dnmt inhibitors attenuated Mlh1 promoter hypermethylation and prevented a decrease in its gene transcripts and an increase in mtDNA mismatches. The administration of Dnmt inhibitors in mice ameliorated a diabetes-induced increase in Mlh1 promoter hypermethylation and a decrease in its gene transcripts. Similar decreases in Mlh1 gene transcripts and its promoter DNA hypermethylation were observed in human donors.
Thus, as a result of the epigenetic modifications of the Mlh1 promoter, its transcription is decreased, and decreased mitochondrial accumulation fails to repair mtDNA mismatches. Therapies targeted to halt DNA methylation have the potential to prevent/halt mtDNA damage and the development of diabetic retinopathy.
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