ABSTRACT

Fructose and ethanol are metabolized principally in the liver and are both known to contribute to the development of hepatic steatosis that can progress to hepatic steatohepatitis. The present study indentifies a synergistic interaction between fructose and ethanol in promoting hepatocyte sensitivity to TNFα-induced necroptosis. Concurrent exposure to fructose and ethanol induces the overexpression of the CDGSH iron-sulfur domain-containing protein 1 (CISD1 or mitoneet), which is localized to the outer mitochondrial membrane. The increased expression of mitoneet primes the hepatocyte for TNFα-induced cytotoxicity. Treatment with TNFα induces the translocation of a Stat3–Grim-19 complex to the mitochondria, which binds to mitoneet and promotes the rapid release of its 2Fe-2S cluster, causing an accumulation of mitochondrial iron. The dramatic increase of mitochondrial iron provokes a surge in formation of reactive oxygen species, resulting in mitochondrial injury and cell death. Additionally, mitoneet is constitutively expressed at high levels in L929 fibrosarcoma cells and is required for L929 cells to undergo TNFα-induced necroptosis in the presence of caspase inhibition, indicating the importance of mitoneet to the necroptotic form of cell death.

INTRODUCTION

Fructose was once a minor component of the human diet. However, in developing countries, the intake of fructose has tripled over the past half century, paralleling an epidemic of obesity and its related complications of diabetes, heart disease and the metabolic syndrome (Ludwig, 2013; Lustig, 2010; Lustig, 2013). Fructose is primarily metabolized in the liver, which has the greatest exposure to fructose from the portal circulation. Hepatocytes of the liver express the highest levels of the fructose specific transporter Glut5 and express the highest levels of fructokinase, which rapidly metabolizes fructose (Douard and Ferraris, 2008). Fructose bypasses the controls exerted on glucose metabolism, and as such exhibits a much greater ability to induce de novo lipogenesis and promote the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (Botezelli et al., 2012; Ouyang et al., 2008; Rutledge and Adeli, 2007). In this regard, the metabolism of fructose in the liver is similar to that of ethanol, in that the metabolism of ethanol brings about a stimulation of de novo lipogenesis, eventually resulting in the development of liver steatosis, which can progress to alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). Furthermore, both fructose and ethanol can induce an inflammatory response in the liver, with the most potent cytokine being tumor necrosis factor (TNFα), which promotes hepatocyte injury and death, eventually resulting in fibrosis and cirrhosis (Abdelmalek et al., 2010; Basaranoglu et al., 2013; Dekker et al., 2010; Lim et al., 2010). We and others have demonstrated that ethanol potentiates TNFα-induced cytotoxicity of hepatocytes, which causes liver injury (Colell et al., 1998; Diehl, 1999; Pastorino and Hoek, 2000). The potentiation of TNFα-induced cytotoxicity by ethanol is mediated through the effects of ethanol on mitochondria, with ethanol promoting a predisposition to the onset of the transition to mitochondrial permeability.

TNFα is capable of bringing about two modes of cell death: apoptosis and necroptosis (Duprez et al., 2011; Vanlangenakker et al., 2011). It has recently been demonstrated that RIPK-3 is required for ethanol induced liver injury (Roychowdhury et al., 2013). We have demonstrated that TNFα-induced necroptosis in some instances is brought about by RIPK-1-dependent phosphorylation of a STAT3–Grim-19 complex, which upon phosphorylation, translocates to the mitochondria where it induces production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and onset of the transition to mitochondrial permeability (Shulga and Pastorino, 2012). However, how the STAT3–GRIM-19 complex induces ROS production at the mitochondria is currently unknown.

Mitoneet (CDGSH iron-sulfur domain-containing protein 1 or CISD1) is an outer mitochondrial membrane protein that binds to and donates 2Fe-2S clusters to apo-acceptor proteins (Wiley et al., 2007a). In adipocytes, mitoneet has been shown to be essential for transport of mitochondrial iron and proper functioning of the mitochondrial respiratory chain (Kusminski et al., 2012). Fructose metabolism by fructokinase differs drastically from that of glucose, in that it bypasses key rate-limiting steps of glycolysis, resulting in depletion of ATP and an increased flux of pyruvate into the mitochondrial tricarboxylic acid cycle, both of which lead to an increase of mitochondrial respiration, necessitating a need for greater delivery of 2Fe-2S clusters to the mitochondria (Ishimoto et al., 2013; Lanaspa et al., 2012a; Lanaspa et al., 2012b). In the present study, we find that concurrent exposure of hepatocytes to fructose and ethanol stimulates an upregulation of mitoneet expression. However, the increased expression of mitoneet primes the cell for TNFα-mediated necroptosis. In hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol, treatment with TNFα activates a STAT3–Grim-19 complex, which binds to mitoneet, resulting in a rapid discharge of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster, a dramatic accumulation of mitochondrial iron, ROS production and cytotoxicity. Intriguingly, pre-treatment of hepatocytes with pioglitazone, which binds to mitoneet and prevents the discharge of its 2Fe-2S cluster, prevented the mitochondrial injury and loss of cell viability provoked by TNFα in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol. Moreover, L929 fibrosarcoma cells constitutively express high levels of mitoneet, which is required for TNFα-induced necroptosis in the presence of caspase inhibition.

RESULTS

Exposure to fructose and ethanol promotes TNFα-induced necroptotic cell death in hepatocytes

Hepatocytes were exposed to 10 mM ethanol or 1 mM fructose individually or in tandem over a 24 hour period. At the doses used, fructose, ethanol or their combination had no detectable effect on cell viability during this time period. Following the 24 hour exposure to ethanol, fructose or both, hepatocytes were then treated with 10 ng/ml TNFα. As shown in Fig. 1A, hepatocytes exposed to 10 mM of ethanol for 24 hours and then treated with TNFα displayed little loss of cell viability over a 16 hour time course, as measured by the permeability of the plasma membrane to propidium iodide. Similarly, TNFα did not bring about appreciable cytotoxicity of hepatocytes exposed to 1 mM fructose. By contrast, hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol concomitantly displayed extreme sensitivity to TNFα-induced cytotoxicity. As shown in Fig. 1A, treatment of hepatocytes with TNFα simultaneously exposed to fructose and ethanol exhibited a 47% loss of cell viability by 8 hours and a 76% loss of cell viability by 16 hours. Importantly, exposure to ethanol and fructose concomitantly in the absence of TNF did not cause loss of cell viability and this was not altered by treatment with ZVAD-FMK.

Fig. 1.

TNFα-mediated necroptosis in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol. Following 24 hours in culture, hepatocytes were exposed to 10 mM ethanol, 1 mM fructose or their combination. After an additional 24 hours, the hepatocytes were either left untreated or pre-treated for 30 minutes with 1 µM ZVAD-FMK or 10 µM necrostatin. Following the pre-treatment, the hepatocytes were treated with 10 ng/ml TNFα. Alternatively, hepatocytes were pre-treated with cycloheximide (1 µg/ml) for 30 minutes followed by the addition of 10 ng/ml TNFα. At the time points indicated, floating and attached cells were harvested. (A) The onset of necroptosis was determined by propidium iodide uptake. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments. (B) For assessment of necrosome formation, the hepatocytes were harvested at 4 hours after addition of TNFα and whole cell extracts prepared. RIPK-1 was immunoprecipitated from the whole cell lysates. The immunoprecipitates were then run on SDS-PAGE gels and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The western blots were developed with antibodies against RIPK-1 and RIPK-3. (C) At the time points indicated, floating and attached cells were harvested. The onset of apoptosis was determined by annexin V binding. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

Fig. 1.

TNFα-mediated necroptosis in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol. Following 24 hours in culture, hepatocytes were exposed to 10 mM ethanol, 1 mM fructose or their combination. After an additional 24 hours, the hepatocytes were either left untreated or pre-treated for 30 minutes with 1 µM ZVAD-FMK or 10 µM necrostatin. Following the pre-treatment, the hepatocytes were treated with 10 ng/ml TNFα. Alternatively, hepatocytes were pre-treated with cycloheximide (1 µg/ml) for 30 minutes followed by the addition of 10 ng/ml TNFα. At the time points indicated, floating and attached cells were harvested. (A) The onset of necroptosis was determined by propidium iodide uptake. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments. (B) For assessment of necrosome formation, the hepatocytes were harvested at 4 hours after addition of TNFα and whole cell extracts prepared. RIPK-1 was immunoprecipitated from the whole cell lysates. The immunoprecipitates were then run on SDS-PAGE gels and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The western blots were developed with antibodies against RIPK-1 and RIPK-3. (C) At the time points indicated, floating and attached cells were harvested. The onset of apoptosis was determined by annexin V binding. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

RIPK-1 and RIPK-3 interact with each other as components of the necrosome, which forms during the onset of TNFα-induced necroptosis. As shown in Fig. 1B, treatment of hepatocytes with TNFα, which were pre-exposed to ethanol or fructose separately, caused only a slight increase in the interaction between RIPK-1 and RIPK-3 (Fig. 1B, lanes 2 and 3). Similarly, treatment of hepatocytes with TNFα in the presence of cycloheximide did not bring about a stable interaction between RIPK-1 and RIPK-3, as has been reported previously (Fig. 1B, lane 7) (Cho et al., 2009). By contrast, in hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and fructose in tandem, treatment with TNFα led to a marked induction of necrosome formation (Fig. 1B, lane 4), which was not affected by pre-treatment with ZVAD-FMK, but was prevented by pre-treatment with the RIPK-1 inhibitor necrostatin-1 (Fig. 1B, lanes 5 and 6, respectively).

The mode of cell death induced by TNFα in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol was necroptotic. Treatment of hepatocytes with TNFα in the presence of a translational inhibitor such as cycloheximide leads to apoptosis (Jin et al., 2008; Pajak et al., 2005). The externalization of phosphatidylserine on the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane is an early and consistent marker of apoptosis and occurs late in necroptosis, only after the integrity of the plasma membrane has been breached (Koul et al., 2006; Okamoto et al., 2002; Van Antwerp et al., 1996). As demonstrated in Fig. 1C, treatment of hepatocytes with TNFα and cycloheximide induced the externalization of phosphatidylserine on the plasma membrane as determined by binding of annexin V, with 56% of the cells staining positive for annexin V by 4 hours and 67% positive at 8 hours. By contrast, treatment of cells exposed to fructose and ethanol with TNFα brought about only an 8% increase in annexin V staining at 4 hours and even after 8 hours, only 14% of the cells were positive for annexin V. Apoptotic cells are known to undergo secondary necrosis. As shown in Fig. 1A, at 16 hours, 48% of the hepatocytes treated with TNFα and cycloheximide displayed propidium iodide uptake. Importantly, this occurred 12 hours after 56% of the hepatocytes displayed annexin V staining (Fig. 1B).

During apoptosis, activation of caspases is necessary to initiate and complete the apoptosis program, but is not required for necroptosis. By contrast, inhibition of caspase activity enhances necroptosis. Therefore, hepatocytes were pre-treated with the pan-caspase inhibitor ZVAD-FMK. As shown in Fig. 1A,C, as assessed by permeability of the plasma membrane to propidium iodide or annexin V staining respectively, ZVAD-FMK prevented onset of apoptosis in cells treated with TNFα and cycloheximide. However as shown in Fig. 1A, ZVAD-FMK did not prevent the cytotoxicity elicited by TNFα in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol, indicating that the mode of cell death is not caspase dependent. Necrostatin is a small molecule inhibitor of the RIPK-1–RIPK-3 complex (necrosome) that initiates necroptotic signalling (Degterev et al., 2008; Takahashi et al., 2012). In contrast to ZVAD-FMK, necrostatin prevented TNFα-induced cell killing in hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and fructose (Fig. 1A). However, the inactive analog of necrostatin had no effect (data not shown). Importantly, necrostatin did not prevent the apoptotic cell death or secondary necrosis provoked by treatment with TNFα and cycloheximide (Fig. 1A,B).

Ethanol and fructose exposure stimulate expression of mitoneet, which is required for TNFα-induced necroptosis

Mitochondria isolated from untreated hepatocytes display a low basal level of mitoneet expression (Fig. 2A, lane 1). Exposure of the hepatocytes to either 10 mM ethanol or 1 mM fructose individually for 24 hours did not provoke an increase in the expression of mitoneet (Fig. 2A, lanes 2 and 3). However, the combination of fructose and ethanol stimulated a robust increase in mitoneet expression at 24 hours that was not prevented by a non-targeting siRNA, but was suppressed by siRNA targeting mitoneet (Fig. 2A, lanes 4 and 5). Pioglitazone is a thiazolidinedione that is used as an anti-diabetes agent. Pioglitazone binds to mitoneet and prevents the discharge of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster (Conlan et al., 2009; Paddock et al., 2007; Zuris et al., 2011). However, pre-treatment with pioglitazone did not prevent the induction of mitoneet expression caused by exposure to the combination of fructose and ethanol (Fig. 2A, lane 6).

Fig. 2.

Exposure to fructose and ethanol stimulates mitoneet expression, whose activation mediates the increased sensitivity to TNFα-induced necroptosis. (A) Hepatocytes were transfected with 50 nM of siRNA targeting mitoneet or a non-targeting control siRNA. After 24 hours, the hepatocytes were either left untreated or exposed to 10 mM ethanol, 1 mM fructose or their combination in the absence or presence of 10 µM pioglitazone for 24 hours. The hepatocytes were then harvested, mitochondria isolated, and the level of mitoneet determined by western blotting. The results are typical of three independent experiments. (B) Hepatocytes were pre-treated or not for 30 minutes with 10 µM of pioglitazone before treatment with 10 ng/ml of TNFα. The cells were harvested at the time points indicated and cell viability determined using propidium iodide. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments. (C) L929 cells were treated as in A. The results are typical of three independent experiments. (D) L929 cells treated as in A were harvested at the time points indicated and cell viability determined with propidium iodide. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

Fig. 2.

Exposure to fructose and ethanol stimulates mitoneet expression, whose activation mediates the increased sensitivity to TNFα-induced necroptosis. (A) Hepatocytes were transfected with 50 nM of siRNA targeting mitoneet or a non-targeting control siRNA. After 24 hours, the hepatocytes were either left untreated or exposed to 10 mM ethanol, 1 mM fructose or their combination in the absence or presence of 10 µM pioglitazone for 24 hours. The hepatocytes were then harvested, mitochondria isolated, and the level of mitoneet determined by western blotting. The results are typical of three independent experiments. (B) Hepatocytes were pre-treated or not for 30 minutes with 10 µM of pioglitazone before treatment with 10 ng/ml of TNFα. The cells were harvested at the time points indicated and cell viability determined using propidium iodide. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments. (C) L929 cells were treated as in A. The results are typical of three independent experiments. (D) L929 cells treated as in A were harvested at the time points indicated and cell viability determined with propidium iodide. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

The upregulation of mitoneet expression by fructose and ethanol exposure is essential for their ability to sensitize hepatocytes to TNFα-induced necroptosis. Hepatocytes were transfected with non-targeting siRNA or siRNA against mitoneet. As shown in Fig. 2B, TNFα treatment of cells exposed to fructose and ethanol and transfected with non-targeting siRNAs brought about a dramatic loss of cell viability over a 16 hour time course, with 45% and 72% of the cells dead at 8 and 16 hours, respectively. By contrast, suppression of mitoneet expression prevented TNFα-induced necroptosis, with more than 85% of the cells still viable at 16 hours after addition of TNFα. Moreover, despite not preventing the upregulation of mitoneet expression brought about by fructose and ethanol exposure, pre-treatment with pioglitazone prevented TNFα-induced necroptosis, indicating that the release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster is as important as upregulation of mitoneet expression for the execution of necroptosis induced by TNFα in these cells (Fig. 2B).

The L929 fibrosarcoma cell line, undergoes TNFα-induced necroptotic cell killing in the presence of caspase inhibitors such as ZVAD-FMK (Vanlangenakker et al.). As shown in Fig. 2B, lane 1, unlike hepatocytes, L929 cells display a constitutively high level of mitoneet expression. TNFα induces apoptosis or necroptosis in L929 cells when combined with cycloheximide or ZVAD-FMK, respectively. Therefore L929 cells were treated with TNFα in the presence of either cycloheximide or ZVAD-FMK. After 2 hours of treatment, before appreciable cell death, the cells were harvested and mitochondria isolated. As shown in Fig. 2C, lane 2, the level of mitoneet declines when the cells are treated with TNFα in the presence of cycloheximide. By contrast, mitoneet levels remained elevated in L929 cells treated with TNFα in the presence of the caspase inhibitor ZVAD-FMK when transfected with a non-targeting siRNA (Fig. 2C, lane 3). Importantly, siRNA targeting mitoneet was able to suppress its expression in cells treated with TNFα and ZVAD-FMK (Fig. 2B, lane 4). Therefore, in order to determine the effect of mitoneet on TNFα-induced necroptosis, L929 cells were transfected with non-targeting siRNA or siRNA against mitoneet. As shown in Fig. 2D, in the presence of ZVAD-FMK, TNFα induced a 45% reduction in the viability of L929 cells transfected with non-targeting siRNA at 8 hours and only 12% of the cells remained viable after 16 hours. Suppression of mitoneet expression prevented TNFα-induced necroptosis, with 85% of the cells still viable following 16 hours of exposure to TNFα in the presence of ZVAD-FMK. Similarly, a 30 minute pre-treatment of the L929 cells with 10 µM pioglitazone suppressed TNFα-induced cytotoxicity, with 86% of the cells viable after 16 hours of treatment.

TNFα induces binding of STAT3–Grim-19 to mitoneet

We demonstrated previously that during TNFα-induced necroptosis of L929 cells, the translocation of a complex of Stat3 and Grim-19 to the mitochondria occurs and brings about mitochondrial injury and loss of cell viability (Shulga and Pastorino, 2012). We wanted to determine whether a similar mechanism was applicable in TNFα-induced necroptosis of hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol. Therefore, mitochondria were isolated from hepatocytes and the mitochondrial levels of Grim-19 and Stat3 determined by immunoblotting. As shown in Fig. 3A (lanes 1 and 2), a 4 hour treatment of hepatocytes with TNFα, which were exposed to fructose and ethanol separately, did not stimulate translocation of Grim-19 or Stat3 to the mitochondria. However, a 4 hour treatment of hepatocytes simultaneously exposed to fructose and ethanol with TNFα brought about a marked accumulation of Stat3–Grim-19 at the mitochondria, which was prevented by pre-treatment with necrostatin-1 (Fig. 3A, lanes 3 and 4, respectively). Intriguingly, expression of mitoneet was required for translocation of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex to the mitochondria. As demonstrated in Fig. 3A, lane 5, suppression of mitoneet expression prevented the TNFα-induced translocation of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex to the mitochondria, suggesting that the Stat3–Grim-19 complex interacts with mitoneet. Notably, induction of mitoneet expression by ethanol and fructose was suppressed by transfection with siRNA targeting mitoneet, but not by a non-targeting siRNA or pre-treatment with necrostatin (Fig. 3A, lanes 3–5).

Fig. 3.

Mitoneet mediates the TNFα-induced translocation of Stat3–Grim-19 to the mitochondria. (A) Hepatocytes treated with siRNA targeting microneet or a non-targeting control siRNA (as in Fig. 2A) were pre-treated or not for 30 minutes with 10 µM of necrostatin and then treated with 10 ng/ml of TNFα. After 4 hours of TNFα treatment, the hepatocytes were harvested and mitochondria isolated. Mitochondrial extracts were prepared, separated by SDS-PAGE and then transferred to PVDF membranes. The blots were probed with antibodies specific for Grim-19, STAT3 or mitoneet. The blots were then stripped and re-probed with antibodies against VDAC-1. The results are representative of three independent experiments. (B) Mitoneet was immunoprecipitated from mitochondrial lysates from hepatocytes treated as in A. The immunoprecipitates were then separated by SDS-PAGE and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The blots were probed with antibodies against Grim-19 or STAT3. For the reverse immunoprecipitation, Grim-19 was immunoprecipitated from mitochondrial lysates and the immunoprecipitates separated by SDS-PAGE and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The blots were probed with antibodies against mitoneet or STAT3. The results are representative of three independent experiments. (C) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting Grim-19 or Stat3 and then treated as in A. At the time points indicated, the cells were harvested and viability determined by uptake of propidium iodide. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

Fig. 3.

Mitoneet mediates the TNFα-induced translocation of Stat3–Grim-19 to the mitochondria. (A) Hepatocytes treated with siRNA targeting microneet or a non-targeting control siRNA (as in Fig. 2A) were pre-treated or not for 30 minutes with 10 µM of necrostatin and then treated with 10 ng/ml of TNFα. After 4 hours of TNFα treatment, the hepatocytes were harvested and mitochondria isolated. Mitochondrial extracts were prepared, separated by SDS-PAGE and then transferred to PVDF membranes. The blots were probed with antibodies specific for Grim-19, STAT3 or mitoneet. The blots were then stripped and re-probed with antibodies against VDAC-1. The results are representative of three independent experiments. (B) Mitoneet was immunoprecipitated from mitochondrial lysates from hepatocytes treated as in A. The immunoprecipitates were then separated by SDS-PAGE and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The blots were probed with antibodies against Grim-19 or STAT3. For the reverse immunoprecipitation, Grim-19 was immunoprecipitated from mitochondrial lysates and the immunoprecipitates separated by SDS-PAGE and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The blots were probed with antibodies against mitoneet or STAT3. The results are representative of three independent experiments. (C) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting Grim-19 or Stat3 and then treated as in A. At the time points indicated, the cells were harvested and viability determined by uptake of propidium iodide. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

To determine the potential for mitoneet interaction with Stat3–Grim-19, mitochondria were isolated and mitochondrial lysates immunoprecipitated with mitoneet antibody. As shown in Fig. 3B, left panels, mitochondria isolated from hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and fructose in tandem and then treated with TNFα for 4 hours display an interaction between mitoneet, STAT3 and Grim-19 (Fig. 3B, lane 3). Importantly, pre-treatment with necrostatin prevented the TNFα-induced interaction between mitoneet and Stat3–Grim-19 (Fig. 3B, lane 4). The reverse immunoprecipitation of GRIM-19 also revealed a TNFα-induced interaction between GRIM-19, mitoneet and Stat3 in cells exposed to fructose and ethanol, which was also prevented by necrostatin (Fig. 3B, right panels). Moreover, the expression of Grim-19 or Stat3 was necessary for TNFα-induced necroptosis. As shown in Fig. 3C, suppression of Grim-19 or Stat3 expression prevented TNFα-induced necroptosis, with more than 80% of the hepatocytes viable following 24 hours of treatment.

Release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster provokes mitochondrial iron overload and ROS production

When the 2Fe-2S cluster of mitoneet is bound, it exhibits a maximum absorbance at 458 mn (Paddock et al., 2007; Wiley et al., 2007a; Wiley et al., 2007b). Therefore, the 2Fe-2S content of mitoneet was monitored by measuring the absorbance of mitoneet immunoprecipitated from mitochondrial lysates. As shown in Fig. 4A, exposure to fructose and ethanol in tandem did not bring about any change in the binding of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster. Similarly, treatment with TNFα alone did not provoke a discharge of the 2Fe-2S cluster from mitoneet. By contrast, TNFα treatment of hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol and transfected with a non-targeting siRNA induced a rapid loss of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster, with absorbance beginning to decrease at 2 hours and declining to just 12% of initial absorbance by 8 hours. Importantly, pre-treatment with pioglitazone prevented the TNFα-induced release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster provoked by TNFα in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol. Because Stat3–Grim-19 binds to mitoneet, we wanted to determine whether the Stat3–Grim-19 complex is required for the rapid discharge of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster. Therefore, hepatocytes were transfected with siRNAs targeting Grim-19 or Stat3. As shown in Fig. 4A, suppression of either Grim-19 or Stat3 expression prevented the TNFα-induced release of the 2Fe-2S cluster from mitoneet in cells exposed to fructose and ethanol.

Fig. 4.

Stat3–Grim-19 interaction with mitoneet mediates mitochondrial iron uptake and ROS production. (A) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting Grim-19 or Stat3 as in Fig. 2A. Some hepatocytes were pre-treated with 10 µM pioglitazone for 30 minutes prior to the addition of TNFα. At the times indicated following the addition of TNFα, the cells were harvested and mitochondria isolated. Mitochondrial lysates were prepared and mitoneet immunoprecipitated. The absorbance of the immunoprecipitates was measured at 458 nm. (B) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting Grim-19, Stat3, mitoneet or a non-targeting control. At the times indicated following TNFα addition, the cells were harvested and the mitochondria isolated. The content of mitochondrial iron was determined. (C) ROS formation determined by measuring MitoSox fluorescence. All values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

Fig. 4.

Stat3–Grim-19 interaction with mitoneet mediates mitochondrial iron uptake and ROS production. (A) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting Grim-19 or Stat3 as in Fig. 2A. Some hepatocytes were pre-treated with 10 µM pioglitazone for 30 minutes prior to the addition of TNFα. At the times indicated following the addition of TNFα, the cells were harvested and mitochondria isolated. Mitochondrial lysates were prepared and mitoneet immunoprecipitated. The absorbance of the immunoprecipitates was measured at 458 nm. (B) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting Grim-19, Stat3, mitoneet or a non-targeting control. At the times indicated following TNFα addition, the cells were harvested and the mitochondria isolated. The content of mitochondrial iron was determined. (C) ROS formation determined by measuring MitoSox fluorescence. All values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

Importantly, the discharge of the 2Fe-2S cluster from mitoneet was paralleled by an accumulation of mitochondrial iron content. As demonstrated in Fig. 4B, mitochondria isolated from hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol for 24 hours did not exhibit an appreciable increase of iron content compared with controls. Treatment with TNFα alone also did not bring about any change in mitochondrial iron content. Remarkably, TNFα treatment of cells exposed to fructose and ethanol provoked a dramatic spike in mitochondrial iron content, starting at 2 hours and resulting in a fivefold increase of mitochondrial iron content after 8 hours of exposure to TNFα, coincident with the release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster. The loading of mitochondrial iron was dependent on mitoneet. Suppression of mitoneet expression prevented the TNFα-induced accumulation of mitochondrial iron, and similarly, pioglitazone, which inhibits mitoneet from releasing its 2Fe-2S cluster, prevented the spike of mitochondrial iron content induced by TNFα in cells exposed to fructose and ethanol. Intriguingly, suppression of mitoneet expression or treatment with pioglitazone caused mitochondrial iron content to fall below untreated control levels, indicating the importance of mitoneet functioning for mitochondrial iron homeostasis. Importantly, suppression of Grim-19 or Stat3 expression also prevented the TNFα-induced accumulation of mitochondrial iron, indicating that the translocation of Grim-19 and Stat3 to the mitochondria and their interaction with mitoneet are required for the rapid discharge of its 2Fe-2S cluster and the subsequent accumulation of iron in the mitochondria.

Mitochondrial iron overload can lead to an increase in ROS (Sripetchwandee et al., 2013; Zhang and Lemasters, 2013). As shown in Fig. 4C, hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol and then treated with TNFα exhibited a threefold increase in ROS formation over 8 hours. The ROS formation was dependent on mitoneet, because suppression of mitoneet expression or prevention of the release of its 2Fe-2S cluster by pre-treatment with pioglitazone abrogated the TNFα-stimulated production of ROS in hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and fructose. Similarly, suppression of Grim-19 or Stat3 expression also prevented the TNFα-elicited spike of ROS in these cells.

The MCU mediates the mitochondrial uptake of iron released from mitoneet

The 2Fe-2S cluster is very labile and will quickly break down when not bound to an apo-protein. The mitochondria can take up both ferrous and ferric iron via the mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU) (Sripetchwandee et al., 2013; Zhang and Lemasters, 2013). Therefore to determine whether the MCU was responsible for mediating the increase of mitochondrial iron following the release of the 2Fe-2S cluster from mitoneet, hepatocytes were either transfected with siRNA targeting the MCU or pre-treated with the MCU inhibitor Ru360. As shown in Fig. 5A, both suppression of MCU expression or pre-treatment with Ru360 prevented the spike of mitochondrial iron levels seen in hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and fructose and treated with TNFα. Importantly, as shown in Fig. 5B, suppression of MCU expression or pre-treatment Ru360 did not prevent the TNFα-induced release of the 2Fe-2S cluster from mitoneet, indicating that the MCU exerts its influence downstream of mitoneet activation. Moreover, as shown in Fig. 5C,D, suppression of MCU expression or pre-treatment with Ru360 also prevented TNFα-induced ROS formation and cytotoxicity. These data suggest that the rapid release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster results in a surge of free ferrous or ferric iron that is taken up by the mitochondria via the MCU channel, resulting in mitochondrial iron overload, ROS formation and cytotoxicity. Importantly, siRNAs targeting the MCU suppressed its expression, but siRNAs targeting mitoneet, Stat3, Grim-19 or a non-targeting control had no effect on MCU levels (supplementary material Fig. S1).

Fig. 5.

The mitochondrial calcium uniporter is required for mitochondrial uptake of iron released by mitoneet. Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting MCU or a non-targeting control. After 24 hours, the hepatocytes were exposed to 10 mM ethanol in combination with 1 mM of fructose. Following an additional 24 hours, the cells were treated with 10 ng/ml of TNFα. Alternatively, where indicated, hepatocytes were pre-treated with 10 µM of Ru360 for 30 minutes prior to the addition of TNFα. (A) At the time points indicated, the cells were harvested and mitochondria isolated. The content of mitochondrial iron was determined. Values are the means of three independent experiments with the error bars indicating standard deviation. (B) Mitochondrial lysates were prepared and mitoneet immunoprecipitated. The absorbance of the immunoprecipitates was measured at 458 nm. (C) At the time points indicated, the cells were harvested and ROS formation was determined by measuring MitoSox fluorescence. (D) The cells were harvested at the time points indicated and cell viability determined by propidium iodide. All values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

Fig. 5.

The mitochondrial calcium uniporter is required for mitochondrial uptake of iron released by mitoneet. Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting MCU or a non-targeting control. After 24 hours, the hepatocytes were exposed to 10 mM ethanol in combination with 1 mM of fructose. Following an additional 24 hours, the cells were treated with 10 ng/ml of TNFα. Alternatively, where indicated, hepatocytes were pre-treated with 10 µM of Ru360 for 30 minutes prior to the addition of TNFα. (A) At the time points indicated, the cells were harvested and mitochondria isolated. The content of mitochondrial iron was determined. Values are the means of three independent experiments with the error bars indicating standard deviation. (B) Mitochondrial lysates were prepared and mitoneet immunoprecipitated. The absorbance of the immunoprecipitates was measured at 458 nm. (C) At the time points indicated, the cells were harvested and ROS formation was determined by measuring MitoSox fluorescence. (D) The cells were harvested at the time points indicated and cell viability determined by propidium iodide. All values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments.

The Stat3–Grim-19 complex directly induces mitoneet dependent mitochondrial iron uptake, ROS formation and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential

We next wanted to determine if the Stat3–Grim-19 complex is capable in and of itself of directly inflicting mitoneet dependent injury on the mitochondria. The plasma membrane of hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol was selectively permeabilized with digitonin as described previously (Verma et al., 2013). A complex of Stat3 phosphorylated on serine 727 and Grim-19 was generated utilizing recombinant proteins. As shown in Fig. 6A, the addition of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex to permeabilized hepatocytes transfected with a non-targeting siRNA induced rapid mitochondrial depolarization as assessed by TMRM fluorescence. Importantly, the ability of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex to provoke mitochondrial injury was dependent on mitoneet expression and activity. Suppression of mitoneet expression or pre-treatment with pioglitazone prevented the mitochondrial depolarization brought about by the Stat3–Grim-19 complex. Moreover, the uptake of free iron was required for the damaging effect, because pre-treatment with the MCU inhibitor, Ru360, also prevented Stat3–Grim-19-induced depolarization. Moreover, as shown in Fig. 6B, the addition of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex to the permeabilized hepatocytes also brought about a rapid stimulation of ROS production. In parallel to mitochondrial membrane potential, suppression of mitoneet expression or pre-treatment with pioglitazone or Ru360 prevented the Stat3–Grim-19-induced surge of ROS (Fig. 6B).

Fig. 6.

Stat3–Grim-19 directly induces mitochondrial damage that is dependent on mitoneet activation. (A) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting mitoneet or a non-targeting control siRNA. After 48 hours, hepatocytes were loaded with 200 nM TMRM for 30 minutes. The cells were then washed twice with PBS and incubated further for 5 minutes in respiratory buffer containing 20 nM of TMRM. Digitonin at 2.5 µg/ml was then added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Where indicated, hepatocytes were pre-treated with 10 µM of Ru360 or 10 µM of pioglitazone for 5 minutes before the addition of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex. The recombinant complex of Stat3-Grim-19 was added at a final concentration of 100 µM. TMRM fluorescence was monitored over a 20 minute time course. 5 µM of CCCP was added at the 18 minute time point. The result is the average of three independent experiments. (B) Hepatocytes as in A were loaded with MitoSOX for 30 minutes. Digitonin (2.5 mg/ml final concentration) was then added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Time-lapse microscopy was conducted over a 20 minute time course. Recombinant Stat3–Grim-19 complex was added at a concentration of 100 µM at the 2 minute time point with MitoSOX fluorescence intensity assessed. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments. (C) Hepatocytes treated as in A were labeled for 15 minutes with 1 mM RPA in Williams Medium E containing 10 mM HEPES buffer instead of Phenol Red. Where indicated, the cells were pre-treated for 10 minutes with 10 µM of pioglitazone or 10 µM of Ru360. Digitonin (2.5 mg/ml final concentration) was added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Recombinant Stat3–Grim-19 complex was added at a concentration of 100 µM and fluorescence was monitored. At the end of the time course, 5 mM of FeCl3-8-hydroxyquinoline (FHQ) was added so as to attain maximal quenching. The result is the average of three independent experiments.

Fig. 6.

Stat3–Grim-19 directly induces mitochondrial damage that is dependent on mitoneet activation. (A) Hepatocytes were transfected with siRNA targeting mitoneet or a non-targeting control siRNA. After 48 hours, hepatocytes were loaded with 200 nM TMRM for 30 minutes. The cells were then washed twice with PBS and incubated further for 5 minutes in respiratory buffer containing 20 nM of TMRM. Digitonin at 2.5 µg/ml was then added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Where indicated, hepatocytes were pre-treated with 10 µM of Ru360 or 10 µM of pioglitazone for 5 minutes before the addition of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex. The recombinant complex of Stat3-Grim-19 was added at a final concentration of 100 µM. TMRM fluorescence was monitored over a 20 minute time course. 5 µM of CCCP was added at the 18 minute time point. The result is the average of three independent experiments. (B) Hepatocytes as in A were loaded with MitoSOX for 30 minutes. Digitonin (2.5 mg/ml final concentration) was then added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Time-lapse microscopy was conducted over a 20 minute time course. Recombinant Stat3–Grim-19 complex was added at a concentration of 100 µM at the 2 minute time point with MitoSOX fluorescence intensity assessed. Values are the means ± s.d. of three independent experiments. (C) Hepatocytes treated as in A were labeled for 15 minutes with 1 mM RPA in Williams Medium E containing 10 mM HEPES buffer instead of Phenol Red. Where indicated, the cells were pre-treated for 10 minutes with 10 µM of pioglitazone or 10 µM of Ru360. Digitonin (2.5 mg/ml final concentration) was added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Recombinant Stat3–Grim-19 complex was added at a concentration of 100 µM and fluorescence was monitored. At the end of the time course, 5 mM of FeCl3-8-hydroxyquinoline (FHQ) was added so as to attain maximal quenching. The result is the average of three independent experiments.

The iron-responsive probe, rhodamine B-[(1,10-phenanthrolin-5-yl)amino carbonyl] benzyl ester (RPA) was used to access mitochondrial iron uptake. RPA fluorescence is decreased upon iron binding. As shown in Fig. 6C, the addition of Stat3–Grim-19 to permeabilized hepatocytes caused a rapid increase of mitochondrial iron, as indicated by the decline of RPA fluorescence. Importantly, inhibition of mitoneet activation with pioglitazone or suppressing its expression prevented the Stat3–Grim-19-provoked accumulation of mitochondrial iron, as did blockade of the MCU by pre-treatment with Ru360 (Fig. 6C).

DISCUSSION

The results of the present study document that concurrent exposure of hepatocytes to fructose and ethanol brings about profound alterations in mitochondrial sensitivity to TNFα. At the concentrations used, individual exposure to ethanol or fructose did not sensitize hepatocytes to TNFα-induced cell killing. However, tandem exposure of hepatocytes to fructose and ethanol exhibited synergy in bringing about sensitivity to TNFα-induced cytotoxicity. Moreover, the mode of cell death was necroptotic, as evidenced by lack of early phosphatidylserine exposure on the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane, the inability of a broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor, ZVAD-FMK, to prevent cytotoxicity, and inhibition of cytotoxicity by necrostatin, a small molecule inhibitor of RIPK-1 and RIPK-3 activity. The ability of fructose and ethanol to sensitize hepatocytes to TNFα-induced necroptosis was dependent on upregulation of mitoneet expression. Fructose and ethanol exposure induced a large increase in the expression of mitoneet, which primed the cell for TNFα cytotoxicity, with suppression of mitoneet expression inhibiting TNFα-induced necroptosis in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol. Additionally, pre-treatment of these hepatocytes with pioglitazone, which binds to mitoneet and prevents release of its 2Fe-2S cluster, prevented TNFα-induced cytotoxicity. Moreover, mitoneet was found to be constitutively expressed at high levels in L929 fibrosarcoma cells, where induction of necroptosis by treatment with TNFα plus ZVAD-FMK was prevented by suppression of mitoneet expression or pre-treatment with pioglitazone, indicating that mitoneet expression and function is required for necroptosis to proceed. Furthermore, mitoneet serves as a mitochondrial binding site for the TNFα-induced translocation of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex. Suppression of mitoneet expression prevented the TNFα-induced translocation of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex to the mitochondria, with suppression of Grim-19 or Stat3 expression preserving cell viability in hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and fructose and treated with TNFα. The interaction of the Stat3–Grim-19 complex with mitoneet resulted in a rapid release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster and the accumulation of mitochondrial iron. The overload of mitochondrial iron provoked a spike in mitochondria ROS production that was required for TNFα-induced necroptosis, with inhibition of iron uptake by the MCU preventing TNFα-induced production of ROS and cytotoxicity in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol.

Mitochondria have emerged as central mediators of cell death. The selective permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane during apoptosis is regulated by the Bcl-2 family of proteins, which in turn are modulated by a diverse set of signaling pathways. By contrast, necrosis was once thought to be an accidental and disorganized form of cell death brought about by noxious conditions such as hypoxia and subsequent reoxygenation. However, recent evidence indicates that necrotic cell death can occur through an organized and systematic series of events that are also modulated by signaling pathways.

We have shown that TNFα can initiate the translocation of a Stat3–Grim-19 complex to the mitochondria, which promotes necroptosis. Grim-19 is a component of complex I of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, also known as NDUFA13 (Chen et al., 2012; Lu and Cao, 2008). Stat3 is a transcription factor, whose presence has been demonstrated in the mitochondria. Studies have identified a Stat3–Grim-19 complex in the nucleus, cytoplasm and mitochondria (Bu et al., 2013; Li et al., 2012; Lufei et al., 2003; Zhang et al., 2003). Indeed it has recently been demonstrated that Grim-19 is required for Stat3 translocation to the mitochondria (Tammineni et al., 2013). We have demonstrated that in cells undergoing TNFα-induced necroptosis, Stat3 is phosphorylated on serine 727 by the necrosome, composed of RIPK-3, and in some instances, RIPK-1 (Shulga and Pastorino, 2012). The phosphorylation of Stat3 promotes its binding to Grim-19. The resulting complex translocates to the mitochondria where it stimulates production of mitochondrial ROS. However, the mechanism by which the Stat3–Grim-19 complex induced mitochondrial ROS production was unclear.

Mitoneet belongs to a protein family that contains a unique 39 amino acid CDGSH domain that binds 2Fe-2S clusters (Paddock et al., 2007; Tirrell et al., 2009; Wiley et al., 2007a). The 2Fe-2S cluster is labile at pH lower than 8 owing to the unusual presence of a histidine residue in the 2Fe-2S cluster-binding domain. Mitoneet functions as a dimer composed of two protomers that form a two-domain structure consisting of a beta-cap domain and the labile 2Fe-2S cluster-binding domain. Curiously, the 2Fe-2S binding domain of mitoneet is stabilized by the anti-diabetic class of thiazolidinediones. Indeed, a structure-based design of mitoneet resulted in the synthesis of the glitazone NL-1 (Geldenhuys et al., 2010). Treatment of neuronal cells with NL-1 blocked rotenone-initiated ROS production. NADPH also regulates the binding of the 2Fe-2S cluster to mitoneet. NADPH destabilizes the 2Fe-2S binding pocket, leading to a loss of the 2Fe-2S cluster, suggesting that under oxidative stress a depletion of NADPH will result in an accumulation of mitoneet-bound 2Fe-2S clusters (Zuris et al., 2012).

The metabolism of mitochondrial iron is complex and incompletely understood. However, increased hepatic iron is frequently seen in patients with alcoholic liver disease (Fletcher et al., 1999; Kohgo et al., 2007; Lundvall et al., 1969; Valerio et al., 1996). Similarly, increased iron content, as occurs in Frederich's ataxia, is associated with an increased risk of type II diabetes (Bao et al., 2012; Simcox and McClain, 2013; Tajima et al., 2012). TNFα caused a rapid release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol, accompanied by a robust accumulation of mitochondrial iron. The release of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster was due to its direct interaction with Stat3–Grim-19. Addition of a preformed complex of Stat3–Grim-19 to permeabilized hepatocytes also brought about a rapid discharge of the mitoneet 2Fe-2S cluster, with an accumulation of mitochondrial iron, stimulation of ROS production and mitochondrial depolarization. The 2Fe-2S cluster is highly labile and once released from mitoneet is prone to break down into free iron. The rapid and nearly complete release of the 2Fe-2S clusters from mitoneet that is seen in hepatocytes exposed to fructose and ethanol and treated with TNFα is likely to overwhelm the physiological uptake system of the mitochondria for 2Fe-2S clusters, resulting in their rapid breakdown and a localized increase of free iron that is taken up by the MCU. Indeed, lending support to such a mechanism, suppression of MCU expression or pre-treatment with Ru360 did not prevent the TNFα-induced release of the 2Fe-2S cluster from mitoneet but did prevent the surge of mitochondrial iron and subsequent spike of ROS production and TNFα-induced cytotoxicity.

In summary, the data presented describe a novel pathway whereby fructose and ethanol synergistically sensitize hepatocytes to TNFα-induced necroptosis (Fig. 7). Fructose and ethanol bring about an increased expression of mitoneet, which upon interaction with the Stat3–Grim-19 complex activated by TNFα, releases its 2Fe-2S cluster. Mitochondria accumulate the released iron through the MCU, resulting in a large spike in mitochondrial iron content that causes a stimulation of ROS production, mitochondrial deenergization and loss of viability. The significance of fructose and ethanol together generating such a potent influence on mitochondrial function and susceptibility to cytokine-induced hepatocyte injury could have implications concerning the consequences of the concurrent consumption of foods high in fructose and the intake of alcoholic beverages on the evolution of liver disease. The results also place mitoneet in a unique position in which it is essential for mitochondrial iron homeostasis, but also capable of mediating mitochondrial injury and necroptotic cell death.

Fig. 7.

Mitoneet mediates a necroptosis pathway.

Fig. 7.

Mitoneet mediates a necroptosis pathway.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Cell culture and treatment

Cryopreserved primary mouse hepatocytes were purchased from Invitrogen and maintained in Williams Medium E containing 10% fetal bovine serum, 100 units/ml penicillin and 100 µg/ml streptomycin under an atmosphere of 95% air, 5% CO2 at 37°C in 6-well or 24-well plates, as indicated. The cells were treated with 10 mM ethanol, 1 mM fructose or their combination for 24 hours. To prevent evaporation of ethanol, a plastic vessel was placed in the incubator containing a mixture of water and ethanol. The level of ethanol in the culture medium was monitored spectrophotometrically by an alcohol dehydrogenase assay. Where indicated, cells were pre-treated for 30 minutes with 10 µM pioglitazone, 10 µM necrostatin or 10 µM Ru360 dissolved in DMSO or deoxygenated water, respectively in a 0.2% volume. TNFα was dissolved in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) and added to the wells in a 0.2% volume to give a final concentration of 10 ng/ml, respectively (22 units/ml).

Cell viability assays and determination of ROS

Following treatments, hepatocytes were harvested and centrifuged at 700 g. The cell pellet was resuspended in phosphate-buffered saline to which was added 5 mM propidium iodide. After incubation for 5 minutes, the cells were pelleted and re-suspended in PBS. The percentage of viable cells was determined using a Cellometer (Nexelom, Lawrence, MA), as the ratio of the number of cells in the fluorescent images (propidium iodide positive) to the bright-field images. For measurement of ROS production, 5 mM MitoSOX (Invitrogen) was added to cells 10 minutes before harvesting. The cells were pelleted and resuspended in PBS. In cells with active production of ROS, MitoSOX is oxidized to a fluorescent species. The percentage of MitoSOX-positive cells was determined using a Cellometer, which calculated the ratio of the number of MitoSOX-positive cells in the fluorescence images to the number of cells in the bright-field images. For determination of phosphatidylserine (PS) externalization, 48 hours after siRNA transfection, floating and attached cells were collected and resuspended in binding buffer at 106 cells/ml. FITC–Annexin-V was added and the cells were incubated for 15 minutes at room temperature. PS-positive cells were determined by flow cytometry.

Isolation of mitochondria

Following treatment, cells from four individual wells (1.0×106 cells total) were harvested by trypsinization and centrifuged at 600 g for 10 minutes at 4°C. Cell pellets were washed once in PBS and then resuspended in three volumes of isolation buffer (20 mM HEPES, pH 7.4, 10 mM KCl, 1.5 mM MgCl2, 1 mM sodium EDTA, 1 mM dithiothreitol, 10 mM phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride, 10 mM leupeptin, 10 mM aprotinin) in 250 mM sucrose. After chilling on ice for 3 minutes, the cells were disrupted by 40 strokes of a glass homogenizer. The homogenate was centrifuged twice at 1500 g at 4°C to remove unbroken cells and nuclei. The mitochondria-enriched fraction (heavy membrane fraction) was then pelleted by centrifugation at 12,000 g for 30 minutes. Mitochondrial integrity was determined by the respiratory control ratio as oxygen consumption in state 3 and state 4 of respiration using a Clark oxygen electrode with 1 mM glutamate and 1 mM malate as respiratory substrates.

Western blotting and immunoprecipitation

Protein samples (20 mg/lane) were separated on Novex 10% Tris-glycine precast gels in the X-Cell II module with MagicMark XP (all from Invitrogen) as the molecular mass marker. Proteins were immunoblotted onto PVDF membranes using the X-Cell II Blot module (Invitrogen). Mitoneet, Grim-19, Stat3 and VDAC-1 were detected using mouse monoclonal antibodies (from Sigma, Cell Signaling and MitoSciences) at 1∶1000 dilution. Appropriate horseradish-peroxidase-labeled secondary antibodies (1∶10,000) were used to detect the relevant proteins by enhanced chemiluminescence. Mitoneet and Grim-19 were immunoprecipitated from mitochondrial extracts. The immunoprecipitates were then run on SDS-PAGE gels and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The western blots were developed with antibodies against Grim-19 or STAT3. For assessment of necrosome formation, hepatocytes were left untreated or treated as indicated in the figures. The hepatocytes were isolated and whole cell extracts prepared. RIPK-1 was immunoprecipitated from the whole cell lysates. The immunoprecipitates were then run on SDS-PAGE gels and blotted onto PVDF membranes. The western blots were developed with antibodies against RIPK-1 and RIPK-3 (Cell Signaling).

Formation of Stat3(phospho727)–Grim-19 complex

The plasmid pGEXGrim-19 was used to transform the protease-deficient strain of E. coli, BL21. An overnight culture of bacteria was used to inoculate (1∶10) 2 liters of LB medium containing 100 mg/ml ampicillin and incubated at 37°C. When the A600 was between 0.7 and 1.0, isopropyl-1-thio-D-galactopyranoside was added to a final concentration of 0.1 mM, and the bacteria were incubated for an additional 3 hours. The cells were lysed with 0.5 mg/ml lysozyme in 50 mM Tris-HCl, pH 8.0, 150 mM NaCl, 0.1% Tween 20, 5 mM dithiothreitol, 1 mM EDTA, 1 mM phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride, 10 mg/ml leupeptin and 10 mg/ml aprotinin. The lysate was then sonicated briefly on ice and centrifuged at 28,000 g for 10 minutes at 4°C. The resulting supernatant was incubated with glutathione–Sepharose beads at 4°C for 8 hours. The resin was washed with 20 mM Tris-HCl, pH 8.0, 150 mM NaCl, 0.1% Tween 20 and 5 mM dithiothreitol. Hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and fructose concomitantly for 24 hours were stimulated with TNFα for 4 hours. The hepatocytes were then harvested and used to generate cell-free lysates. The resin containing the bound GST–Bax-19 was added to the cell-free lysates and incubated for 16 hours at 4°C on a rotator. Bead-associated complexes were washed and then pelleted at 200 g for 1 minute. The pelleted beads were then incubated with 10 units of thrombin in PBS overnight at 4°C with agitation. The released Stat3(phospho727)–Grim-19 complex was then purified on a MonoQ column using a linear gradient of 0.5 M NaCl in 10 mM phosphate with protease inhibitors, pH 5.0, and the detergent was removed using Extracti-Gel D detergent removal gel (Pierce). The resulting eluate was concentrated in a Centricon concentrator (molecular mass cut-off of 30 kDa) (Millipore).

Transfection with siRNAs

siRNAs targeting mitoneet, Grim-19, Stat3, MCU or a non-targeting control (Dharmacon) were delivered by a lipid-based method supplied from a commercial vendor (Gene Therapy Systems) at a final siRNA concentration of 50 nM. After formation of the siRNA liposome complexes, the mixture was added to hepatocytes for 24 hours. Afterwards, the medium was aspirated and complete medium was added back. The specificity of the siRNAs was demonstrated in previous publication and in supplementary material Fig. S1.

Time-lapse fluorescence microscopy

Hepatocytes were plated in eight-well chamber slides (Nunc, Rochester, NY) at 25,000 cells/well. Cells were transfected with siRNA as described above. Where indicated, hepatocytes were pre-treated with 10 µM pioglitazone or 10 µM Ru360 for 10 minutes before the start of image acquisition. For determination of mitochondrial membrane potential, cells were loaded with 200 nM TMRM for 30 minutes. For determination of ROS formation, cells were loaded with 200 nM of MitoSOX for 30 minutes. The cells were then washed twice (50 mM Tris-HCl, 1 mM EGTA, pH 7.5). The hepatocytes were placed in respiratory medium containing 0.5 mM EGTA, 3 mM MgCl2, 60 mM potassium lactobionate, 20 mM taurine, 10 mM KH2PO4, 20 mM HEPES, 110 mM sucrose, 1 g/l BSA, 2 mM oligomycin, 1 mM of succinate and either 20 nM of TMRM or 20 nM of MitoSOX. The cells were then incubated in the respiratory medium for 5 minutes on a heated stage maintained at 37°C. Digitonin (2.5 mg/ml) was added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Images containing 200–250 cells were taken at 1 minute intervals for 20 minutes on an Olympus IX51 microscope using a 62× objective. Recombinant Stat3–Grim-19 complex was added after 2 minutes, and for TMRM measurements, CCCP was added after 18 minutes to induce complete depolarization. Images were analyzed using Slidebook software. Regions of interest were drawn around cells in the acquired images, pixel intensities were measured and averaged for each image. A line graph for each condition was drawn in SigmaPlot using the formula: % intensity  =  (observed intensity–final image intensity)/(first image intensity–final image intensity)*100. For MitoSOX, intensity measurements were performed similar to TMRM experiments. The increase in fluorescence intensity at one minute intervals was compared with the intensity of the first image acquired (at zero minute time point) and represented as percentages using the formula: % increase in fluorescence intensity  =  (observed image intensity–first image intensity)/(first image intensity)*100. A bar graph was made for the 20 minute time points.

For measurement of mitochondrial iron, mouse hepatocytes were plated in 8-well chamber slides (Nunc, Rochester, NY) at 25,000 cells/well. The cells were labeled for 15 minutes at 37°C with 1 mM RPA {mitochondrial iron sensor red rhodamine B[(1,10-phenanthrolin-5-yl) aminocarbonyl] benzyl ester} in Williams Medium E containing 10 mM HEPES buffer instead of Phenol Red. The cells were then incubated in the respiratory medium for 5 minutes on a heated stage maintained at 37°C. Digitonin (2.5 mg/ml) was added to permeabilize the plasma membrane. Images containing 200–250 cells were taken at 1 minute intervals for 20 minutes on an Olympus IX51 microscope using a 62× objective. After a 2 minute baseline was recorded, Stat3–Grim-19 was added and changes in fluorescence were recorded for 20 minutes at 37°C followed by 5 mM addition of FeCl3-8-hydroxyquinoline (FHQ, Sigma-Aldrich) to attain maximal quenching. Four independent sets of data were obtained and the average from these four sets is shown in the plot of fluorescence versus time.

Measurement of mitochondrial iron uptake

Reagents were treated with Chelex 100 Resin (0.3 g/10 ml). The following reagents were incubated for 1 hour at 37°C in a 1 ml final reaction volume: 100 mM Tris-HCl, pH 7.4, 0.5 mg calf thymus DNA, 0.075 U bleomycin, 5 mM MgCl2, 1 mM ascorbic acid, 50 µl of mitochondrial lysates or FeCl2 standard. The reaction was stopped by the addition of 60 mM butylated hydroxytoluene. An aliquot of the mixture (0.4 ml) was incubated with 0.2 M phosphoric acid and 0.11 M thiobarbituric acid (TBA) for 45 minutes at 90°C. The upper organic layer was extracted with 1 ml N-butanol and absorbance was measured at 532 nm. A FeCl2 concentration curve was constructed to determine the iron concentration in mitochondrial lysates.

Statistical analysis

Results are expressed as means ± s.d. of at least three independent experiments. Statistical significance was defined at P<0.05.

Author contributions

N.S.: cell culture and treatment, cell viability and ROS determination, Western blotting and immunoprecipitation, and siRNA transfection. J.G.P.: mtochondrial isolation, Stat3-Grim-19 complex formation, time-lapse microscopy and mitochondrial iron uptake.

Funding

This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health [grant number 5RO1AA012897-10]. Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.

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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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