The mitochondrial-derived peptide humanin protects RPE cells from oxidative stress, senescence, and mitochondrial dysfunction

Parameswaran G. Sreekumar, Keijiro Ishikawa, Chris Spee, Hemal H. Mehta, Junxiang Wan, Kelvin Yen, Pinchas Cohen, Ram Kannan, David R. Hinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE. To investigate the expression of humanin (HN) in human retinal pigment epithelial (hRPE) cells and its effect on oxidative stress-induced cell death, mitochondrial bioenergetics, and senescence. METHODS. Humanin localization in RPE cells and polarized RPE monolayers was assessed by confocal microscopy. Human RPE cells were treated with 150 μM tert-Butyl hydroperoxide (tBH) in the absence/presence of HN (0.5-10 μg/mL) for 24 hours. Mitochondrial respiration was measured by XF96 analyzer. Retinal pigment epithelial cell death and caspase-3 activation, mitochondrial biogenesis and senescence were analyzed by TUNEL, immunoblot analysis, mitochondrial DNA copy number, SA-β-Gal staining, and p16INK4a expression and HN levels by ELISA. Oxidative stress-induced changes in transepithelial resistance were studied in RPE monolayers with and without HN cotreatment. RESULTS. A prominent localization of HN was found in the cytoplasmic and mitochondrial compartments of hRPE. Humanin cotreatment inhibited tBH-induced reactive oxygen species formation and significantly restored mitochondrial bioenergetics in hRPE cells. Exogenous HN was taken up by RPE and colocalized with mitochondria. The oxidative stress-induced decrease in mitochondrial bioenergetics was prevented by HN cotreatment. Humanin treatment increased mitochondrial DNA copy number and upregulated mitochondrial transcription factor A, a key biogenesis regulator protein. Humanin protected RPE cells from oxidative stress-induced cell death by STAT3 phosphorylation and inhibiting caspase-3 activation. Humanin treatment inhibited oxidant-induced senescence. Polarized RPE demonstrated elevated cellular HN and increased resistance to cell death. CONCLUSIONS. Humanin protected RPE cells against oxidative stress-induced cell death and restored mitochondrial function. Our data suggest a potential role for HN therapy in the prevention of retinal degeneration, including AMD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1238-1253
Number of pages16
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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