Background: Tetracyclines’ use in intensive animal farming has raised some concerns regarding the biosafety for humans. Increasing evidences have revealed the presence of these drugs in processed animal by-products, such as bone, throughout the food chain. A potential off-target of tetracyclines is the bacterial-like mitochondrial translational machinery, thereby causing proteostatic alterations in mitochondrial DNA-encoded components of the oxidative phosphorylation system. Methods: The Seahorse methodology, confocal microscopy imaging of mitochondrial potential and reactive oxygen species, and q-RT-PCR analysis of the expression of genes involved in mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy were carried out on human lymphoblast derived K562 cell line challenged with bone powder derived from chicken treated with or without oxytetracycline and pure oxytetracycline. Results: A complex dose-dependent profile was attained with a low dosage of bone powder extracts causing a metabolic adaptation hallmarked by stimulation of the mitochondrial respiration and enhanced expression of mitochondriogenic factors in particular in cells challenged with oxytetracycline-free bone extract. Conversely, a higher dosage of bone powder extracts, regardless of their source, caused a progressive inhibition of mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis, ultimately leading to cell death. No significant effects of the pure oxytetracycline were observed. Conclusion: Bone powder, regardless of chicken treatment, contains and releases factors/chemicals responsible for the observed effects on energy metabolism. Quantitative differential effects appear to depend on biochemical alterations in the bone matrix caused by antibiotics rather than antibiotics themselves.
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