Tempol Protects Cardiomyocytes from Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor-Induced Mitochondrial Toxicity

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Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), essential components of combinational therapies used for treatment of human immunodeficiency virus-1, damage heart mitochondria. Here, we have shown mitochondrial compromise in H9c2 rat cardiomyocytes exposed for 16 passages (P) to the NRTIs zidovudine (AZT, 50μM) and didanosine (ddI, 50μM), and we have demonstrated protection from mitochondrial compromise in cells treated with 200μM 1-oxyl-2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-4-hydroxypiperidine (Tempol) or 200μM 1-hydroxy-4-[2-triphenylphosphonio)-acetamido]-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine (Tempol-H), along with AZT/ddI, for 16P. Exposure to AZT/ddI caused a moderate growth inhibition at P3, P5, P7, and P13, which was not altered by addition of Tempol or Tempol-H. Mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation capacity was determined as uncoupled oxygen consumption rate (OCR) by Seahorse XF24 Analyzer. At P5, P7, and P13, AZT/ddI-exposed cells showed an OCR reduction of 8.8–57.2% in AZT/ddI-exposed cells, compared with unexposed cells. Addition of Tempol or Tempol-H, along with AZT/ddI, resulted in OCR levels increased by about 300% above the values seen with AZT/ddI alone. The Seahorse data were further supported by electron microscopy (EM) studies in which P16 cells exposed to AZT/ddI/Tempol had less mitochondrial pathology than P16 cells exposed to AZT/ddI. Western blots of P5 cells showed that Tempol and Tempol-H upregulated expression of mitochondrial uncoupling protein-2 (UCP-2). However, Complex I activity that was reduced by AZT/ddI, was not restored in the presence of AZT/ddI/Tempol. Superoxide levels were increased in the presence of AZT/ddI and significantly decreased in cells exposed to AZT/3TC/Tempol at P3, P7, and P10. In conclusion, Tempol protects against NRTI-induced mitochondrial compromise, and UCP-2 plays a role through mild uncoupling.

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