Abstract

 

The implications of nutrient starvation due to aging on the degeneration of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is yet to be fully explored. We examined the involvement of AMPK activation in mitochondrial homeostasis and its relationship with the maintenance of a healthy mitochondrial population and epithelial characteristics of RPE cells under nutrient starvation. Nutrient starvation induced mitochondrial senescence, which led to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in RPE cells. As nutrient starvation persisted, RPE cells underwent pathological epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) via the upregulation of TWIST1, a transcription regulator which is activated by ROS-induced NF-B signaling. Enhanced activation of AMPK with metformin decelerated mitochondrial senescence and EMT progression through mitochondrial biogenesis, primed by activation of PGC1-. Thus, by facilitating mitochondrial biogenesis, AMPK protects RPE cells from the loss of epithelial integrity due to the accumulation of ROS in senescent mitochondria under nutrient starvation.