Protein kinase C epsilon (PKCε) is critical for cardiac protection from ischaemia and reperfusion (IR) injury. PKCε substrates that mediate cytoprotection reside in the mitochondria. However, the mechanism enabling mitochondrial translocation and import of PKCε to enable phosphorylation of these substrates is not known. Heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) is a cytoprotective protein chaperone that participates in mitochondrial import of a number of proteins. Here, we investigated the role of HSP90 in mitochondrial import of PKCε.
Methods and results
Using an ex vivo perfused rat heart model of IR, we found that PKCε translocates from the cytosol to the mitochondrial fraction following IR. Immunogold electron microscopy and mitochondrial fractionation demonstrated that following IR, mitochondrial PKCε is localized within the mitochondria, on the inner mitochondrial membrane. Pharmacological inhibition of HSP90 prevented IR-induced interaction between PKCε and the translocase of the outer membrane (Tom20), reduced mitochondrial import of PKCε, and increased necrotic cell death by ∼70%. Using a rational approach, we designed a 7-amino acid peptide activator of PKCε, derived from an HSP90 homologous sequence located in the C2 domain of PKCε (termed ψεHSP90). Treatment with this peptide (conjugated to the cell permeating TAT protein-derived peptide, TAT47–57) increased PKCε–HSP90 protein–protein interaction, enhanced mitochondrial translocation of PKCε, increased phosphorylation and activity of an intra-mitochondrial PKCε substrate, aldehyde dehydrogenase 2, and reduced cardiac injury in ex vivo and in vivo models of myocardial infarction.
Our results suggest that HSP90-mediated mitochondrial import of PKCε plays an important role in the protection of the myocardium from IR injury.