Mitochondria-associated endoplasmic reticulum membranes (MAMs) regulate ATG14- and Beclin1-mediated mitophagy and play key roles in the development of diabetic nephropathy (DN). DsbA-L is mainly located in MAMs and plays a role in renoprotection, but whether it activates mitophagy by maintaining MAM integrity remains unclear. In the present study, we found that renal tubular damage was further aggravated in diabetic DsbA-L−/− mice compared with diabetic mice and that this damage was accompanied by disrupted MAM integrity and decreased mitophagy. Furthermore, notably decreased expression of ATG14 and Beclin1 in MAMs extracted from the kidneys of diabetic DsbA-L−/− mice was observed. In vitro, overexpression of DsbA-L reversed the disruption of MAM integrity and enhanced mitophagy in HK-2 cells, a human proximal tubular cell line, after exposure to high-glucose (HG) conditions. Additionally, compared with control mice, DsbA-L−/− mice were exhibited down-regulated expression of helicase with zinc finger 2 (HELZ2) in their kidneys according to transcriptome analysis; HELZ2 serves as a cotranscription factor that synergistically functions with PPARα to promote the expression of mitofusin 2 (MFN-2). Treatment of HK-2 cells with MFN-2 siRNA resulted in MAM uncoupling and decreased mitophagy. Moreover, HG notably reduced the expression of HELZ2 and MFN-2 and inhibited mitophagy, and these effects were partially blocked by overexpression of DsbA-L and altered upon cotreatment with HELZ2 siRNA, HELZ2 overexpression or MK886 (PPARα inhibitor) treatment. These data indicate that DsbA-L alleviates diabetic tubular damage by activating mitophagy through maintenance of MAM integrity via the HELZ2/MFN-2 pathway.

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