Diabetes changes expression of genes related to glutamate neurotransmission and transport in the Long-Evans rat retina

Jennifer C M Lau, Roger A. Kroes, Joseph R. Moskal, Robert A. Linsenmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study investigated changes in the transcript levels of genes related to glutamate neurotransmission and transport as diabetes progresses in the Long-Evans rat retina. Transcript levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), erythropoietin, and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP3) were also measured due to their protective effects on the retinal vasculature and neurons. Methods: Diabetes was induced in Long-Evans rats with a single intraperitoneal (IP) injection of streptozotocin (STZ; 65 mg/kg) in sodium citrate buffer. Rats with blood glucose >300 mg/dl were deemed diabetic. Age-matched controls received a single IP injection of sodium citrate buffer only. The retinas were dissected at 4 and 12 weeks after induction of diabetes, and mRNA and protein were extracted from the left and right retinas of each rat, respectively. Gene expression was analyzed using quantitative real-time reverse-transcription PCR. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was used to quantify the concentration of VEGF protein in each retina. Statistical significance was determined using 2×2 analysis of variance followed by post-hoc analysis using Fisher's protected least squares difference. Results: Transcript levels of two ionotropic glutamate receptor subunits and one glutamate transporter increased after 4 weeks of diabetes. In contrast, 12 weeks of diabetes decreased the transcript levels of several genes, including two glutamate transporters, four out of five N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunits, and all five kainate receptor subunits. Diabetes had a greater effect on gene expression of NM DA and kainate receptor subunits than on the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA) receptor subunits, for which only GRIA4 signifcantly decreased after 12 weeks. VEGF protein levels were signifcantly increased in 4-week diabetic rats compared to age-matched control rats whereas the increase was not signifcant after 12 weeks. Transcript levels of VEGF and VEGF receptors were unchanged with diabetes. Erythropoietin and IGFBP3 mRNA levels signifcantly increased at both time points, and IGFBP2 mRNA levels increased after 12 weeks. Conclusions: Diabetes caused significant changes in the transcriptional expression of genes related to ionotropic glutamate neurotransmission, especially after 12 weeks. Most genes with decreased transcript levels after 12 weeks were expressed by retinal ganglion cells, which include glutamate transporters and ionotropic glutamate receptors. Two genes expressed by retinal ganglion cells but unrelated to glutamate neurotransmission, γ-synuclein (SNCG) and adenosine A1 receptor (ADORA1), also had decreased mRNA expression after 12 weeks. These findings may indicate ganglion cells were lost as diabetes progressed in the retina. Decreased expression of the glutamate transporter SLC1A3 would lead to decreased removal of glutamate from the extracellular space, suggesting that diabetes impairs this function of Müller cells. These findings suggest that ganglion cells were lost due to glutamate excitotoxicity. The changes at 12 weeks occurred without signifcant changes in retinal VEGF protein or mRNA, although higher VEGF protein levels at 4 weeks may be an early protective response. Increased transcript levels of erythropoietin and IGFBP3 may also be a protective response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1538-1553
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular vision
StatePublished - Jul 19 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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