Age-related changes in sympathetic neurotransmission in rat retina and choroid

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While age-related night vision loss and age-related macular degeneration are well characterized, less is known about the normal aging process in the retina and choroid. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH), β1- and β2-adrenergic receptor gene and protein expression are altered in the retina and choroid with age. The retina and choroid were dissected from F344×BNF1 hybrid rats aged 8, 22, and 32 months. Real-time PCR and Western blot analysis were conducted to determine steady-state mRNA and protein expression. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was conducted to localize DBH protein expression in the retina. DBH protein expression was substantially decreased with age in the retina, particularly in the outer nuclear layer, with no changes in DBH expression noted in the choroid. There was a significant increase in β1-adrenergic receptor protein expression in retinal samples at 22 months, while β2-adrenergic receptor protein expression was not affected by age. Decreased expression of DBH with age in the retina could lead to reduced production of norepinephrine, potentially resulting in an increase of β1-adrenergic receptor expression due to denervation supersensitivity. Gene expression for DBH, β1- and β2-adrenergic receptors were observed to peak at 22 months and return to baseline levels by 32 months of age in the choroid. Our findings suggest that the retina may be more sensitive to age-related loss of sympathetic neurotransmission than the choroid, which may partially explain normal age-related vision loss in the elderly.

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