Downregulation of AMPK dependent FOXO3 and TFEB involves in the inhibition of autophagy in diabetic cataract

Purpose: Autophagy plays a crucial role in intracellular quality control of crystalline lens and AMPK has regulatory effect on autophagy. However, whether AMPK regulated autophagy is involved in diabetic cataract (DC) progression remains unknown. This study aims to investigate the AMPK-FOXO3 and AMPK-TFEB induced autophagy activity in DC patients.

Materials and methods: First, anterior capsule specimens from DC and age-related cataract (ARC) patients were obtained to compare the expression difference of autophagy-related genes. The phosphorylation levels of AMPK, AKT, and mTOR and the expression of FOXO3 and TFEB were measured. Then, human lens epithelial cells (LECs, SRA 01/04) were cultured with 30 mM or 5.5 mM glucose, and AMPK activator (AICAR) and inhibitor (Compound C) were applied to further investigate the regulatory role of AMPK on autophagy.

Results: Compared with ARC patients, the expression of autophagy-related genes ATG5, FYCO1, ATG8, ATG12, Beclin1, and ULK1 in anterior capsules LECs of DC patients were significantly down-regulated. Meanwhile, AMPK and AMPK-dependent transcription factors, FOXO3 and TFEB were also inhibited. Similar results were found in high glucose (HG) treated SRA 01/04 model. Notably, this down-regulation of autophagy activity was rescued by AICAR in vitro, which was manifested by inhibition of AKT and mTOR phosphorylation and up-regulation of FOXO3, TFEB, Beclin1 and LC3B-II expression.

Conclusions: Down-regulation of AMPK-FOXO3 and AMPK-TFEB induced autophagy activity was found in both LECs of anterior capsule from DC patients and SRA 01/04 cells under HG condition, which may be the underlying mechanism of DC formation. Thus, targeting AMPK-induced autophagy may be a potential therapeutic approach for diabetic cataract.

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Related Targets

AMPK Mitophagy