The nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor-2 (Nrf2), a major antioxidant transcription factor, is decreased in several age-related diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness among the elderly in western society. Since Nrf2’s mito-protective response is understudied, we investigated its antioxidant response on mitochondria. Control and Nrf2-deficient retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells were compared after treating with cigarette smoke extract (CSE). Mitochondrial antioxidant abundance and reactive oxygen species (ROS) were quantified. Mitochondrial function was assessed by TMRM assay, NADPH, electron transport chain activity, and Seahorse. Results were corroborated in Nrf2 mice and relevance to AMD was provided by immunohistochemistry of human globes. CSE induced mitochondrial ROS to impair mitochondrial function. H O increase in particular, was magnified by Nrf2 deficiency, and corresponded with exaggerated mitochondrial dysfunction. While Nrf2 did not affect mitochondrial antioxidant abundance, oxidized PRX3 was magnified by Nrf2 deficiency due to decreased NADPH from decreased expression of IDH2 and pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) genes. With severe CSE stress, intrinsic apoptosis was activated to increase cell death. PPP component TALDO1 immunolabeling was decreased in dysmorphic RPE of human AMD globes. Despite limited regulation of mitochondrial antioxidant expression, Nrf2 influences PPP and IDH shuttle activity that indirectly supplies NADPH for the TRX2 system. These results provide insight into how Nrf2 deficiency impacts the mitochondrial antioxidant response, and its role in AMD pathobiology.
© 2021 The Authors. Aging Cell published by Anatomical Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.