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PloS one

α-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone protects retinal vascular endothelial cells from oxidative stress and apoptosis in a rat model of diabetes.


PMID 24695675

Abstract

Oxidative stress and apoptosis are among the earliest lesions of diabetic retinopathy. This study sought to examine the anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects of α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) in early diabetic retinas and to explore the underlying mechanisms in retinal vascular endothelial cells. Sprague-Dawley rats were injected intravenously with streptozocin to induce diabetes. The diabetic rats were injected intravitreally with α-MSH or saline. At week 5 after diabetes, the retinas were analyzed for reactive oxygen species (ROS) and gene expression. One week later, the retinas were processed for terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling staining and transmission electron microscopy. Retinal vascular endothelial cells were stimulated by high glucose (HG) with or without α-MSH. The expression of Forkhead box O genes (Foxos) was examined through real-time PCR. The Foxo4 gene was overexpressed in endothelial cells by transient transfection prior to α-MSH or HG treatment, and oxidative stress and apoptosis were analyzed through CM-H2DCFDA and annexin-V assays, respectively. In diabetic retinas, the levels of H2O2 and ROS and the total anti-oxidant capacity were normalized, the apoptotic cell number was reduced, and the ultrastructural injuries were ameliorated by α-MSH. Treatment with α-MSH also corrected the aberrant changes in eNOS, iNOS, ICAM-1, and TNF-α expression levels in diabetic retinas. Furthermore, α-MSH inhibited Foxo4 up-regulation in diabetic retinas and in endothelial cells exposed to HG, whereas Foxo4 overexpression abrogated the anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects of α-MSH in HG-stimulated retinal vascular endothelial cells. α-MSH normalized oxidative stress, reduced apoptosis and ultrastructural injuries, and corrected gene expression levels in early diabetic retinas. The protective effects of α-MSH in retinal vascular endothelial cells may be mediated through the inhibition of Foxo4 up-regulation induced by HG. This study suggests an α-MSH-mediated potential intervention approach to early diabetic retinopathy and a novel regulatory mechanism involving Foxo4.