Astrocytes increase barrier properties and ZO-1 expression in retinal vascular endothelial cells

Thomas W. Gardner, Erich Lieth, Sonny A. Khin, Alistair J. Barber, Dean J. Bonsall, Treena Lesher, Keith Rice, William A. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Purpose. Diabetic retinopathy and other diseases associated with retinal edema are characterized by increased microvascular leakage. Astrocytes have been proposed to maintain endothelial function in the brain, suggesting that glial impairment may underlie the development of retinal edema. The purpose of this study was to test the effects of astrocytes on barrier properties in retinal microvascular endothelial cells. Methods. Bovine retinal microvascular endothelial cells were exposed to conditioned media from rat brain astrocytes. Transendothelial electrical resistance (TER) was determined on 24-mm Transwell (Cambridge, MA) polycarbonate filters with the End-Ohm device (World Precision Instruments, Sarasota, FL). ZO-1 protein content was quantified by microtiter enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results. Astrocyte-conditioned medium (ACM) significantly increased TER (P < 0.0001) and ZO-1 content (P < 0.01). Both serum-containing and serum-free N1B defined ACM increased ZO-1 expression, but heating abolished the effect. Serum-free ACM decreased cell proliferation by 16%. Conclusions. Astrocytes release soluble, heat-labile factors that increase barrier properties and tight junction protein content. These results suggest that astrocytes enhance blood-retinal barrier properties, at least in part by increasing tight junction protein expression. Our findings suggest that glial malfunction plays an important role in the pathogenesis of vasogenic retinal edema.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2423-2427
Number of pages5
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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