Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Daret St Clair


UVB radiation is a known environmental carcinogen that causes DNA damage and increase ROS generation in mitochondria. Accumulating evidence suggests that mtDNA damage and increased ROS generation trigger mitochondrial translocation of p53. Within mitochondria, p53 interacts with nucleoid macromolecular complexes such as mitochondrial antioxidant MnSOD, mitochondrial DNA polymerase Polγ, and mtDNA. Mitochondria are considered to be a potential source for damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) such as mtDNA, cytochrome C, ATP, and formyl peptides. Intracytoplasmic release of DAMPs can trigger inflammasome formation and programmed cell death processes. Autophagic clearance of mitochondria with compromised integrity can inhibit inflammatory and cell death processes.

In this study we investigated whether and how MnSOD plays a protective role in UVB-induced mitochondrial damage. The possibility of MnSOD participating in the mtDNA repair process was addressed in vivo using transgenic and pharmacological approaches. The results demonstrate that MnSOD functions as a fidelity protein that maintains the activity of Polγ by preventing UVB-induced nitration and inactivation of Polγ and that MnSOD coordinates with p53 to prevent mtDNA damage.

We also investigated whether autophagy is an adaptive response mechanism by which skin cells respond to mitochondrial injury, using mouse keratinocytes (JB6 cells) and C57/BL6 mice as in vitro and in vivo models. The results demonstrate that UVB induces autophagy initiation in murine skin tissues and that down regulation of AKTmTOR levels triggers initiation of autophagy processes. These results suggest that autophagy may play a role in scavenging damaged mitochondria.

Taken together, the results from these studies suggest that MnSOD plays a protective role against UVB-induced mitochondria injury beyond its known antioxidant function. Within the mitochondrial matrix, MnSOD acts as an antioxidant and fidelity protein by prevention of UVB-induced nitration of Polγ. The functions of MnSOD may be to enhance mitochondrial membrane integrity and to prevent the genesis of oxidatively damaged mitochondrial components and subsequent intracytoplasmic spillage. Activation of autophagy serves as an additional response that scavenges damaged mitochondria.