Research Papers:

Mesenchymal marker expression is elevated in Müller cells exposed to high glucose and in animal models of diabetic retinopathy

Ti Zhou, Di Che, Yuqing Lan, Zhenzhen Fang, Jinye Xie, HaiJun Gong, ChaoYang Li, Juan Feng, Honghai Hong, Weiwei Qi, Caiqi Ma, Zhonghan Yang, WeiBin Cai, Jun Zhong, Jianxing Ma, Xia Yang and Guoquan Gao _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:4582-4594. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13945

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Ti Zhou1,2,*, Di Che1,2,*, Yuqing Lan3,*, Zhenzhen Fang2, Jinye Xie2, HaiJun Gong3, ChaoYang Li4, Juan Feng2, Honghai Hong2, Weiwei Qi2, Caiqi Ma2, Zhonghan Yang1, WeiBin Cai5, Jun Zhong1, Jianxing Ma6, Xia Yang1,7, Guoquan Gao1,2,8

1Program of Molecular Medicine, Affiliated Guangzhou Women and Children’s Hospital, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

2Department of Biochemistry, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

3Department of Ophthalmology, Second Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

4State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

5Guangdong Engineering and Technology Research Center for Disease-Model Animals, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

6Department of Physiology, University of Oklahoma, Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

7Key Laboratory of Functional Molecules from Marine Microorganisms (Sun Yat-sen University), Department of Education of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou, China

8China Key Laboratory of Tropical Disease Control (Sun Yat-sen University), Ministry of Education, Guangzhou, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Guoquan Gao, email: [email protected]

Xia Yang, email: [email protected]

Jianxing Ma, email: [email protected]

Keywords: diabetic retinopathy, mesenchymal markers, hyperglycemia, müller cells

Received: June 06, 2016     Accepted: December 01, 2016     Published: December 15, 2016


Müller cells are retinal glial cells and exhibit a fibroblast-like phenotype and ability to migrate in diabetic retinopathy (DR). However, expression of mesenchymal markers, which promote fibrosis in various organs, has not been characterized in the diabetic retina. We examined changes in the expression of these markers in Müller cells exposed to high glucose and in animal models of diabetic retinopathy. High glucose conditions increased mesenchymal maker expression and migration in Müller cells. Snail, N-cadherin, Vimentin, β-catenin, and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) levels were all dramatically increased in retinas from humans with diabetic retinopathy (DR) and from DR mouse models. In addition, Snail overexpression increased the expression of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) and fibronectin, while Snail knockdown attenuated high glucose-induced increases in fibronectin and CTGF expression. These results demonstrate for the first time that mesenchymal markers are upregulated in retinas from a diabetic mouse model, and that Snail and N-cadherin levels are also increased in Müller cells exposed to high glucose. This suggests mesenchymal proteins may play a crucial role in the development of DR.

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