von Willebrand A domain-containing protein 8 (VWA8) is a poorly characterized, mitochondrial matrix-targeted protein with an AAA ATPase domain and ATPase activity that increases in livers of mice fed a high-fat diet. This study was undertaken to use CRISPR/Cas9 to delete VWA8 in cultured mouse hepatocytes and gain insight into its function. Unbiased omics techniques and bioinformatics were used to guide subsequent assays, including the assessment of oxidative stress and the determination of bioenergetic capacity. Metabolomics analysis showed VWA8 null cells had higher levels of oxidative stress and protein degradation; assays of hydrogen peroxide production revealed higher levels of production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Proteomics and transcriptomics analyses showed VWA8 null cells had higher levels of expression of mitochondrial proteins (electron transport-chain Complex I, ATP synthase), peroxisomal proteins, and lipid transport proteins. The pattern of higher protein abundance in the VWA8 null cells could be explained by a higher level of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 α (HNF4α) expression. Bioenergetic assays showed higher rates of carbohydrate oxidation and mitochondrial and nonmitochondrial lipid oxidation in intact and permeabilized cells. Inhibitor assays localized sites of ROS production to peroxisomes and NOX1/4. The rescue of VWA8 protein restored the wild-type phenotype, and treatment with antioxidants decreased the level of HNF4α expression. Thus, loss of VWA8 produces a mitochondrial defect that may be sensed by NOX4, leading to an increase in the level of ROS that results in a higher level of HNF4α. The compensatory HNF4α response results in a higher oxidative capacity and an even higher level of ROS production. We hypothesize that VWA8 is an AAA ATPase protein that plays a role in mitochondrial protein quality.
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