Renal tubular injury is increasingly being recognized as an early characteristic of diabetic nephropathy (DN). Mitochondrial dynamic alterations and redox protein p66Shc-mediated oxidative stress are both critical for ensuing diabetic tubular cell injury and apoptosis; whether these two processes are interlinked remains unclear. In the present study, we observed changes in mitochondrial morphology and expression of associated proteins in tubules of patients with DN. We demonstrated mitochondrial fragmentation as an important pathogenic feature of tubular cell injury that is linked to oxidative stress and p66Shc up-regulation. In renal proximal tubular cells, alterations in mitochondrial dynamics and expression of fission–fusion proteins were observed under high glucose (HG) ambience, along with p66Shc Ser36 phosphorylation. Gene ablation of p66Shc alleviated HG-induced mitochondrial fragmentation, down-regulated Fis1 and reduced p66Shc–Fis1 binding, increased Mfn1 expression, and disrupted interactions between Mfn1 and proapoptotic Bak. Overexpression of p66Shc exacerbated these changes, whereas overexpression of dominant-negative p66Shc Ser36 mutant had a marginal effect under HG, indicating that p66Shc phosphorylation as a prerequisite in the modulation of mitochondrial dynamics. Disrupted mitochondrial dynamics and enhanced Mfn1–Bak interactions modulated by p66Shc led to loss of mitochondrial voltage potential, cytochrome C release, excessive ROS generation, and apoptosis. Taken together, these results link p66Shc to mitochondrial dynamic alterations in the pathogenesis of DN and unveil a novel mechanism by which p66Shc mediates HG-induced mitochondrial fragmentation and proapoptotic signaling that results in oxidative injury and apoptosis in the tubular compartment in human diabetic nephropathy.

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