We have previously shown that diabetes causes dysfunctional cerebral neovascularization that increases the risk for cerebrovascular disorders such as stroke and cognitive impairment. Pericytes (PCs) play a pivotal role in the angiogenic process through their interaction with the endothelial cells (EC). Yet, the role of PCs in dysfunctional cerebral neovascularization in diabetes is unclear. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that the increased proangiogenic Ephrin-B2 signaling in PCs contributes to the dysfunctional cerebral neovascularization in diabetes. Type-II diabetes was induced by a combination of high fat diet and low dose streptozotocin injection in male Wistar rats. Selective in vivo Ephrin-B2 silencing in brain PCs was achieved using the stereotactic injection of adeno-associated virus (AAV) with NG2-promoter that expresses Ephrin-B2 shRNA. Neovascularization was assessed using vascular fluorescent dye stain. Novel object recognition (NOR) test was used to determine cognitive functions. Human brain microvascular pericytes HBMVPCs were grown in high glucose 25 mM and palmitate 200 uM (HG/Pal) to mimic diabetic conditions. Scratch migration and tube formation assays were conducted to evaluate PC/EC interaction and angiogenic functions in PC/EC co-culture. Diabetes increased the expression of Ephrin-B2 in the cerebrovasculature and pericytes. Concomitant increases in cerebral neovascularization parameters including vascular density, tortuosity and branching density in diabetic rats were accompanied by deterioration of cognitive function. Inhibition of Ephrin-B2 expression in PCs significantly restored cerebral vascularization and improved cognitive functions. HG/Pal increased PC/EC angiogenic properties in co-culture. Silencing Ephrin-B2 in PCs significantly reduced PC migration and PC/EC co-culture angiogenic properties. This study emphasizes the significant contribution of PCs to the pathological neovascularization in diabetes. Our findings introduce Ephrin-B2 signaling as a promising therapeutic target to improve cerebrovascular integrity in diabetes.
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