Loss of cholinergic and dopaminergic amacrine cells in streptozotocin- diabetic rat and Ins2Akita-diabetic mouse retinas

Matthew J. Gastinger, Ravi S.J. Singh, Alistair J. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. To identify amacrine cells that are vulnerable to degeneration during the early stages of diabetes. METHODS. Whole retinas from streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic rats and Ins2Akita mice were fixed in paraformaldehyde. Apoptotic cells in the retina were quantified using terminal dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) and active caspase-3 (CM-1) immunohistochemistry. Immunohistochemical markers for choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and tyrosine hyroxylase (TH) were also used to quantify populations of amacrine cells in the Ins2Akita mouse retinas. RESULTS. The number of TUNEL-positive nuclei increased from 29 ± 4 in controls to 72 ± 9 in the STZ-diabetic rat retinas after only 2 weeks of diabetes. In rats, CM-1-immunoreactive (IR) cells were found primarily in the inner nuclear and ganglion cell layers after 2, 8, and 16 weeks of diabetes. At each end point, the number of CM-1-IR cells in the retina was elevated by diabetes. Approximately 2% to 6% of the CM-1-IR cells in the inner nuclear layer (INL) were double-labeled for TH immunoreactivity. After 6 months of diabetes in the Ins2Akita mouse, the morphology of the labeled ChAT-IR and TH-IR amacrine cell somas and dendrites appeared normal. A quantitative analysis revealed a 20% decrease in the number of cholinergic and a 16% decrease in dopaminergic amacrine cells in the diabetic mouse retinas, compared with the nondiabetic control. CONCLUSIONS. Dopaminergic and cholinergic amacrine cells are lost during the early stages of retinal neuropathy in diabetes. Loss of these neurons may play a critical role in the development of visual deficits in diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3143-3150
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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