Diabetic retinopathy (DR), a major complication of diabetes caused by vascular damage and pathological proliferation of retinal vessels, often progresses to vision loss. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling plays a pivotal role in the development of DR, but the exact underlying molecular mechanisms remain ill-defined. Cellular prion protein (PrPc) is a surface protein expressed by vascular endothelial cells, and the increased expression of PrPc is associated with physiological and pathological vascularization. Nevertheless, a role for PrPc in the development of DR has not been appreciated. Here, we addressed this question. We found that the development of streptozocin (STZ)-induced DR, but not the STZ-induced hyperglycemia/diabetes itself, was significantly attenuated in PrPc-KO mice, compared to control wildtype (WT) mice, evident by measurement of retinal vascular leakage, retinal neovascularization, a retinopathy score and visual acuity assessment. Moreover, the attenuation of DR severity seemingly resulted from attenuation of retinal neovascularization via VEGF/ras/rac signaling. Together, our study suggests a previously unappreciated role for PrPc in the development of DR.
Angiogenesis – Springer Journals
Published: May 30, 2018