Loss of vascular pericytes has long been associated with the onset of diabetic retinopathy; however, mechanisms contributing to pericyte dropout are not understood. Notch3 has been implicated in pericyte stability and survival, and linked to vascular integrity. Notch3 mutant mice exhibit progressive loss of retinal pericytes. Given that diabetic retinopathy is associated with pericyte loss, we sought to determine whether perturbation of Notch3 signaling contributes to diabetes-induced pericyte dropout and capillary degeneration. We utilized a pericyte-expressed LacZ transgene (XlacZ4) to examine pericyte loss in retinas of a type I diabetic mouse model (Ins2Akita) and Notch3-deficient mice. Notch3 null animals showed a dramatic loss of the LacZ marker by 8 weeks of age, while Ins2Akita diabetic and Notch3 heterozygous mice exhibited a much slower and subtler loss of LacZ. Although combined Notch3 heterozygosity in Ins2Akita diabetic animals did not show further deficits, the trypsin digest method revealed that Notch3 haploinsufficiency increased the formation of acellular capillaries in diabetic mice. Our data further indicate that Notch signaling is blunted in diabetic retinas and in cells exposed to hyperglycemia. These results are the first to demonstrate an association between Notch3 signaling, pericyte loss, and diabetic retinopathy.
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Notch signaling
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine