We have previously shown that mitochondria-targeted vitamin E (Mito-Vit-E), a mtROS specific antioxidant, improves cardiac performance and attenuates inflammation in a pneumonia- related sepsis model. In this study, we applied the same approaches to decipher the signaling pathway(s) of mtROS-dependent cardiac inflammation after sepsis. Sepsis was induced in Sprague Dawley rats by intratracheal injection of S. pneumoniae. Mito-Vit-E, vitamin E or vehicle was administered 30 minutes later. In myocardium 24 hours post-inoculation, Mito-Vit-E, but not vitamin E, significantly protected mtDNA integrity and decreased mtDNA damage. Mito-Vit-E alleviated sepsis-induced reduction in mitochondria-localized DNA repair enzymes including DNA polymerase γ, AP endonuclease, 8-oxoguanine glycosylase, and uracil-DNA glycosylase. Mito-Vit-E dramatically improved metabolism and membrane integrity in mitochondria, suppressed leakage of mtDNA into the cytoplasm, inhibited up-regulation of Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) pathway factors MYD88 and RAGE, and limited RAGE interaction with its ligand TFAM in septic hearts. Mito-Vit-E also deactivated NF-κB and caspase 1, reduced expression of the essential inflammasome component ASC, and decreased inflammatory cytokine IL-1β. In vitro, both Mito-Vit-E and TLR9 inhibitor OND-I suppressed LPS-induced up-regulation in MYD88, RAGE, ASC, active caspase 1, and IL-1β in cardiomyocytes. Since free mtDNA escaped from damaged mitochondria function as a type of DAMPs to stimulate inflammation through TLR9, these data together suggest that sepsis-induced cardiac inflammation is mediated, at least partially, through mtDNA-TLR9-RAGE. At last, Mito-Vit-E reduced the circulation of myocardial injury marker troponin-I, diminished apoptosis and amended morphology in septic hearts, suggesting that mitochondria-targeted antioxidants are a potential cardioprotective approach for sepsis.
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