Toll-Like Receptor 4 Reduces Occludin and Zonula Occludens 1 to Increase Retinal Permeability Both in vitroand in vivo

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Abstract

We reported that β-adrenergic receptors regulate toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling in the retina of diabetic mice and in retinal endothelial cells (REC) and Müller cells. We hypothesized that TLR4 regulates retinal permeability both in vitro and in vivo in the retinal vasculature. We used REC cultured in normal and high-glucose conditions and TLR4 siRNA treatments for cell culture studies of permeability and protein analyses of tumor necrosis factor α, occludin, and zonula occludens 1 (ZO-1). We used endothelial cell (EC)-specific Cre-Lox TLR4 knockout mice to study retinal permeability and neuronal and vascular changes following exposure to ocular ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) used as a retinal stressor. We found that the loss of TLR4 in the EC led to the reduced permeability following I/R and fewer degenerate capillaries. Retinal permeability was increased in REC grown in high-glucose conditions but was inhibited by TLR4 siRNA treatment. High-glucose culture conditions significantly reduced occludin and ZO-1 levels in REC, and TLR4 siRNA treatment restored levels to baseline. In conclusion, these studies demonstrate that TLR4 in EC strongly regulates retinal permeability and neuronal and vascular changes following exposure to stressors such as I/R.

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