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Premature death of retinal pericytes is a pathophysiological hallmark of diabetic retinopathy. Among the mechanisms proposed for pericyte death is exposure to AGE, which accumulate during diabetes. The current study used an in vitro model, whereby retinal pericytes were exposed to AGE-modified substrate and the mechanisms underlying pericyte death explored.Pericytes were isolated from bovine retinal capillaries and propagated on AGE-modified basement membrane (BM) extract or non-modified native BM. The extent of AGE modification was analysed. Proliferative responses of retinal pericytes propagated on AGE-modified BM were investigated using a 5-bromo-2-deoxy-uridine-based assay. The effect of extrinsically added platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) isoforms on these proliferative responses was also analysed alongside mRNA expression of the PDGF receptors. Apoptotic death of retinal pericytes grown on AGE-modified BM was investigated using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labelling labelling, mitochondrial membrane depolarisation and by morphological assessment. We also measured both the ability of PDGF to reverse Akt dephosphorylation that was mediated by AGE-modified BM, and increased pericyte apoptosis.Retinal pericytes exposed to AGE-modified BM showed reduced proliferative responses in comparison to controls (p<0.05-0.01), although this effect was reversed at low-AGE modifications. PDGF mRNA levels were differentially altered by exposure to low and high AGE levels, and AGE-modified BM caused significantly increased apoptosis in retinal pericytes. Pre-treatment of AGE-modified BM with PDGF-AA and -BB reversed the apoptosis (p<0.05-0.001) and restored Akt phosphorylation in retinal pericytes.Evidence suggests that substrate-derived AGE such as those that occur during diabetes could have a major influence on retinal pericyte survival. During diabetic retinopathy, AGE modification of vascular BM may reduce bioavailability of pro-survival factors for retinal pericytes.