Characterization of Retinal Microvascular Complications and the Effects of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Mouse Models of Diabetic Atherosclerosis
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Purpose: Recent evidence suggests that there is a correlation between the micro- and macrovascular complications of diabetes mellitus. The aim of this study is to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which diabetes promotes the development of microvascular disease (diabetic retinopathy [DR]) through characterization of the effects of hyperglycemia in the retina of mouse models of diabetic atherosclerosis. Methods: Hyperglycemia was induced in apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE-/-) mice, a model of accelerated atherosclerosis, either through streptozotocin (STZ) injection or introduction of the Ins2Akita mutation (ApoE-/-Ins2+/Akita). Another subset of ApoE-/- mice was supplemented with glucosamine (GlcN). To attenuate atherosclerosis, subsets of mice from each experimental group were treated with the chemical chaperone, 4-phenylbutyric acid (4PBA). Eyes from 15-week-old mice were either trypsin digested and stained with periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) or frozen for cryostat sectioning and immunostained for endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress markers, including C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) and 78-kDa glucose-regulated protein (GRP78). PAS-stained retinal flatmounts were analyzed for microvessel density, acellular capillaries, and pericyte ghosts. Results: Features of DR, including pericyte ghosts and reduced microvessel density, were observed in hyperglycemic and GlcN-supplemented mice. Treatment with 4PBA reduced ER stress in the retinal periphery and attenuated DR in the experimental groups. Conclusions: Mouse models of diabetic atherosclerosis show characteristic pathologies of DR that correlate with atherosclerosis. The increased magnitude of these changes and responses to 4PBA in the peripheral retina suggest that future studies should be aimed at assessing regional differences in mechanisms of ER stress-related pathways in these mouse models.