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Rapamycin alleviates mitochondrial dysfunction in anti-NMDAR encephalitis mice

Kong, L;Yang, X;Sun, A;Yang, X;Zhao, X;Wang, S;

Anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis is one of the most prevalent forms of autoimmune encephalitis, characterized by a series of neurological and psychiatric symptoms, including cognitive impairment, seizures and psychosis. The underlying mechanism of anti-NMDAR encephalitis remains unclear. In the current study, the mouse model of anti-NMDAR encephalitis with active immunization was performed. We first uncovered excessive mitochondrial fission in the hippocampus and temporal cortex of anti-NMDAR encephalitis mice, indicated by elevated level of Phospho-DRP1 (Ser616) (p-Drp1-S616). Moreover, blockade of the autophagic flux was also demonstrated, leading to the accumulation of fragmented mitochondria, and elevated levels of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in anti-NMDAR encephalitis. More importantly, we found that the mTOR signaling pathway was overactivated, which could aggravate mitochondrial fission and inhibit autophagy, resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction. While rapamycin, the specific inhibitor of the mTOR signaling pathway, significantly alleviated mitochondrial dysfunction by inhibiting mitochondrial fission and enhancing autophagy. Levels of mtROS and mtDNA were markedly reduced after the treatment of rapamycin. In addition, rapamycin also significantly alleviated cognitive dysfunction and anxious behaviors found in anti-NMDAR encephalitis mice. Thus, our study reveals the vital role of mitochondrial dysfunction in pathological mechanism of anti-NMDAR encephalitis and lays a theoretical foundation for rapamycin to become a clinically targeted drug for anti-NMDAR encephalitis.