1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology, Shanghai Key Laboratory for Tumor Microenvironment and Inflammation, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
2. Shanghai Institute of Immunology, Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Key Laboratory of Cell Differentiation and Apoptosis of Chinese Ministry of Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
3. Department of Hepatic Surgery VI, Eastern Hepatobiliary Surgery Hospital, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.
Background: Impaired mitochondrial function contributes to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Acylglycerol kinase (AGK) is a subunit of the translocase of the mitochondrial inner membrane 22 (TIM22) protein import complex. AGK mutation is the leading cause of Sengers syndrome, characterized by congenital cataracts, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, skeletal myopathy, lactic acidosis, and liver dysfunction. The potential roles and mechanisms of AGK in NASH are not yet elucidated.
Methods: Hepatic-specific AGK-deficient mice and AGK G126E mutation (AGK kinase activity arrest) mice were on a choline-deficient and high-fat diet (CDAHFD) and a methionine choline-deficient diet (MCD). The mitochondrial function and the molecular mechanisms underlying AGK were investigated in the pathogenesis of NASH.
Results: The levels of AGK were significantly downregulated in human NASH liver samples. AGK deficiency led to severe liver damage and lipid accumulation in mice. Aged mice lacking hepatocyte AGK spontaneously developed NASH. AGK G126E mutation did not affect the structure and function of hepatocytes. AGK deficiency, but not AGK G126E mice, aggravated CDAHFD- and MCD-induced NASH symptoms. AGK deficiency-induced liver damage could be attributed to hepatic mitochondrial dysfunction. The mechanism revealed that AGK interacts with mitochondrial respiratory chain complex I subunits, NDUFS2 and NDUFA10, and regulates mitochondrial fatty acid metabolism. Moreover, the AGK DGK domain might directly interact with NDUFS2 and NDUFA10 to maintain the hepatic mitochondrial respiratory chain complex I function.
Conclusions: The current study revealed the critical roles of AGK in NASH. AGK interacts with mitochondrial respiratory chain complex I to maintain mitochondrial integrity via the kinase-independent pathway.
Keywords: mitochondrial respiratory chain, NDUFS2, fatty acid metabolism, mitochondrial ROS