TFE3, a potential therapeutic target for Spinal Cord Injury via augmenting autophagy flux and alleviating ER stress

Theranostics. 2020 Jul 23;10(20):9280-9302. doi: 10.7150/thno.46566. eCollection 2020.


Background and Aim: Increasing evidence suggests that spinal cord injury (SCI)-induced defects in autophagic flux may contribute to an impaired ability for neurological repair following injury. Transcription factor E3 (TFE3) plays a crucial role in oxidative metabolism, lysosomal homeostasis, and autophagy induction. Here, we investigated the role of TFE3 in modulating autophagy following SCI and explored its impact on neurological recovery. Methods: Histological analysis via HE, Nissl and Mason staining, survival rate analysis, and behavioral testing via BMS and footprint analysis were used to determine functional recovery after SCI. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, immunofluorescence, TUNEL staining, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, and immunoprecipitation were applied to examine levels of autophagy flux, ER-stress-induced apoptosis, oxidative stress, and AMPK related signaling pathways. In vitro studies using PC12 cells were performed to discern the relationship between ROS accumulation and autophagy flux blockade. Results: Our results showed that in SCI, defects in autophagy flux contributes to ER stress, leading to neuronal death. Furthermore, SCI enhances the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that induce lysosomal dysfunction to impair autophagy flux. We also showed that TFE3 levels are inversely correlated with ROS levels, and increased TFE3 levels can lead to improved outcomes. Finally, we showed that activation of TFE3 after SCI is partly regulated by AMPK-mTOR and AMPK-SKP2-CARM1 signaling pathways. Conclusions: TFE3 is an important regulator in ROS-mediated autophagy dysfunction following SCI, and TFE3 may serve as a promising target for developing treatments for SCI.

Keywords: AMPK signaling pathways; Autophagy; ER stress-induced apoptosis; Spinal cord injury; TFE3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / physiology*
  • Female
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Lysosomes / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • PC12 Cells
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tcfe3 protein, mouse
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases