IGFBP-3 Regulates Mitochondrial Hyperfusion and Metabolic Activity in Ocular Surface Epithelia during Hyperosmolar Stress

Whitney L. Stuard, Melis K. Guner, Danielle M. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In the eye, hyperosmolarity of the precorneal tear film triggers inflammation and the development of dry eye disease (DED), a highly prevalent condition that causes depression and disability in severe forms. A member of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) family, the IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), is a pleiotropic protein with known roles in growth downregulation and survival. IGFBP-3 exerts these effects by blocking IGF-1 activation of the type 1 IGF-receptor (IGF-1R). Here, we examined a new IGF-independent role for IGFBP-3 in the regulation of mitochondrial and metabolic activity in ocular surface epithelial cells subject to hyperosmolar stress and in a mouse model of DED. We found that hyperosmolar stress decreased IGFBP-3 expression in vitro and in vivo. Treatment with exogenous IGFBP-3 induced an early, transient shift in IGF-1R to mitochondria, followed by IGFBP-3 nuclear accumulation. IGFBP-3 nuclear accumulation increased protein translation, blocked the hyperosmolar-mediated decrease in oxidative phosphorylation through the induction of mitochondrial hyperfusion, and restored corneal health in vivo. These data indicate that IGFBP-3 acts a stress response protein in ocular surface epithelia subject to hyperosmolar stress. These findings may lead to the development of first-in-class therapeutics to treat eye diseases with underlying mitochondrial dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4066
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • cornea
  • dry eye disease
  • hyperosmolarity
  • IGFBP-3
  • metabolism
  • mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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