Cystatin C, a secreted cysteine protease inhibitor, is abundantly expressed in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. A mutation in the protein’s leader sequence, corresponding to formation of an alternate variant B protein, has been linked with an increased risk for both age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Variant B cystatin C displays intracellular mistrafficking with partial mitochondrial association. We hypothesized that variant B cystatin C interacts with mitochondrial proteins and impacts mitochondrial function. We sought to determine how the interactome of the disease-related variant B cystatin C differs from that of the wild-type (WT) form. For this purpose, we expressed cystatin C Halo-tag fusion constructs in RPE cells to pull down proteins interacting with either the WT or variant B form, followed by identification and quantification by mass spectrometry. We identified a total of 28 interacting proteins, of which 8 were exclusively pulled down by variant B cystatin C. These included 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO) and cytochrome B5 type B, both of which are localized to the mitochondrial outer membrane. Variant B cystatin C expression also affected RPE mitochondrial function with increased membrane potential and susceptibility to damage-induced ROS production. The findings help us to understand how variant B cystatin C differs functionally from the WT form and provide leads to RPE processes adversely affected by the variant B genotype.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- age-related macular degeneration
- cystatin C
- translocator protein
- variant B