Modulation of IL-1β and VEGF expression in rat diabetic retinopathy after PACAP administration

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Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a microvascular complication of diabetes. Hyperglycemic/hypoxic microenvironment concurs to aberrant angiogenesis characterizing the pathology and activates many downstream target genes including inflammatory cytokines and vasoactive peptides, such as interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

It has been largely demonstrated that pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP) plays a protective effect in DR. In the present study, we investigated the role of PACAP to protect retinal tissue through IL-1β and VEGF expression. Diabetes was induced in rats by streptozotocin (STZ) injection, and one week later a single intravitreal injection of 100 μM PACAP was administrated. Analyses of IL-1β and VEGF levels were performed three weeks after diabetes induction.

The results demonstrated that a single intraocular administration of PACAP significantly reduced the expression of IL-1β in diabetic animals. Moreover, it affects VEGF and its receptors (VEGFRs) levels and interferes with their retinal layers distribution as showed by confocal microscopy analysis. In particular, PACAP treatment downregulates VEGF and VEGFRs that are increasingly expressed in STZ-treated animals as compared to controls. These results indicate that PACAP plays an important role to attenuate the early phase of DR.

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