Altered expression of retinal occludin and glial fibrillary acidic protein in experimental diabetes

A. J. Barber, D. A. Antonetti, T. W. Gardner

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341 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. To investigate how diabetes alters vascular endothelial cell tight junction protein and glial cell morphology at the blood-retinal barrier (BRB). METHODS. The distribution of the glial marker, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and the endothelial cell tight junction protein occludin were explored by immunofluorescence histochemistry in flatmounted retinas of streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic and age-matched control rats, and in BB/Wor diabetes-prone and age-matched diabetes-resistant rats. RESULTS. GFAP immunoreactivity was limited to astrocytes in control retinas. Two months of STZ-diabetes reduced GFAP immunoreactivity in astrocytes and increased GFAP immunoreactivity in small groups of Muller cells. After 4 months of STZ-induced diabetes, all Muller cells had intense GFAP immunoreactivity, whereas there was virtually none in the astrocytes. BB/Wor diabetic rats had similar changes in GFAP immunoreactivity. Occludin immunoreactivity in normal rats was greatest in the capillary bed of the outer plexiform layer and arterioles of the inner retina but much less intense in the postcapillary venules. Diabetes reduced occludin immunoreactivity in the capillaries and induced redistribution from continuous cell border to interrupted, punctate immunoreactivity in the arterioles. Forty-eight hours of insulin treatment reversed the pattern of GFAP and occludin immunoreactivity in the STZ-diabetic rats. CONCLUSIONS. Diabetes alters GFAP expression in retinal glial cells, accompanied by reduction and redistribution of occludin in endothelial cells. These changes are consistent with the concept that altered glial-endothelial cell interactions at the BRB contribute to diabetic retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3561-3568
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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