Recent studies based on animal models of various neurological disorders have indicated that mitophagy, a selective autophagy that eliminates damaged and superfluous mitochondria through autophagic degradation, may be involved in various neurological diseases. As an important mechanism of cellular stress response, much less is known about the role of mitophagy in stress-related mood disorders. Here, we found that tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), an inflammation cytokine that plays a particular role in stress responses, impaired the mitophagy in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) via triggering degradation of an outer mitochondrial membrane protein, NIP3-like protein X (NIX). The deficits in the NIX-mediated mitophagy by TNF-α led to the accumulation of damaged mitochondria, which triggered synaptic defects and behavioral abnormalities. Genetic ablation of NIX in the excitatory neurons of mPFC caused passive coping behaviors to stress, and overexpression of NIX in the mPFC improved TNF-α-induced synaptic and behavioral abnormalities. Notably, ketamine, a rapid on-set and long-lasting antidepressant, reversed the TNF-α-induced behavioral abnormalities through activation of NIX-mediated mitophagy. Furthermore, the downregulation of NIX level was also observed in the blood of major depressive disorder patients and the mPFC tissue of animal models. Infliximab, a clinically used TNF-α antagonist, alleviated both chronic stress- and inflammation-induced behavioral abnormalities via restoring NIX level. Taken together, these results suggest that NIX-mediated mitophagy links inflammation signaling to passive coping behaviors to stress, which underlies the pathophysiology of stress-related emotional disorders.
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This work was supported by the Foundation for National Key R&D Program of China (STI2030-Major Projects-2021ZD0202900/02/03 [to J-GC]), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 82130110 [to J-GC] and Grant No. U21A20363 [to FW]), Innovative Research Groups of National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 81721005 [to J-GC and FW]), National Key R&D Program of China (Grant Nos. 2020YFA0803900 [to J-GC]), Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University (Grant No. IRT13016 [to J-GC.). We also thank Prof. Bin Hu and Dr. Zhi-Jun Yao, Lanzhou University, for kindly providing the blood samples of healthy control subjects and patients with MDD.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Lu, JJ., Wu, PF., He, JG. et al. BNIP3L/NIX-mediated mitophagy alleviates passive stress-coping behaviors induced by tumor necrosis factor-α. Mol Psychiatry (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-023-02008-z