DNA-PKcs promotes alcohol-related liver disease by activating drp1-related mitochondrial fission and repressing FUNDC1-required mitophagy

Hao Zhou, Pingjun Zhu, Jin Wang, Sam Toan, Jun Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) is a novel housekeeper of hepatic mitochondrial homeostasis outside the DNA repair process. In this study, DNA-PKcs was upregulated in the livers of mice that were exposed to alcohol; the expression of DNA-PKcs positively correlated with hepatic steatosis, fibrosis, apoptosis, and mitochondrial damage. Functional studies revealed that liver-specific DNA-PKcs knockout (DNA-PKcsLKO) mice were protected from chronic ethanol-induced liver injury and mitochondrial damage. Mechanistic investigations established that DNA-PKcs promoted p53 activation, which elevated dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1)-related mitochondrial fission but repressed FUN14 domain containing 1 (FUNDC1)-required mitophagy. Excessive fission and defective mitophagy triggered mtDNA damage, mitochondrial respiratory inhibition, mROS overproduction, cardiolipin oxidation, redox imbalance, calcium overload, and hepatic mitochondrial apoptosis. In contrast, the deletion of DNA-PKcs rescued these phenotypic alterations, which alleviated the susceptibility of hepatocytes to alcohol-induced cytotoxicity. Additionally, we also showed that orphan nuclear receptor subfamily 4 group A member 1 (NR4A1) was the upstream signal for DNA-PKcs activation and that the genetic ablation of NR4A1 ameliorated the progression of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD); these results were similar to those obtained in DNA-PKcs knockout mice. Collectively, our results identified the NR4A1/DNA-PKcs/ p53 axis as a novel signaling pathway responsible for ARLD pathogenesis that acts by activating Drp1-related mitochondrial fission and restricting FUNDC1-required mitophagy. The findings have potential implications for new approaches for ARLD therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number56
JournalSignal Transduction and Targeted Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFA0506000), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2019TQ0128) and the NSFC (81900252, 81770261, 81900254 and 91749128). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


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