A Novel Tree Shrew Model of Diabetic Retinopathy

Academic Article


  • Existing animal models with rod-dominant retinas have shown that hyperglycemia injures neurons, but it is not yet clearly understood how blue cone photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) deteriorate in patients because of compromised insulin tolerance. In contrast, northern tree shrews (Tupaia Belangeri), one of the closest living relatives of primates, have a cone-dominant retina with short wave sensitivity (SWS) and long wave sensitivity (LWS) cones. Therefore, we injected animals with a single streptozotocin dose (175 mg/kg i.p.) to investigate whether sustained hyperglycemia models the features of human diabetic retinopathy (DR). We used the photopic electroretinogram (ERG) to measure the amplitudes of A and B waves and the photopic negative responses (PhNR) to evaluate cone and RGC function. Retinal flat mounts were prepared for immunohistochemical analysis to count the numbers of neurons with antibodies against cone opsins and RGC specific BRN3a proteins. The levels of the proteins TRIB3, ISR-1, and p-AKT/p-mTOR were measured with western blot. The results demonstrated that tree shrews manifested sustained hyperglycemia leading to a slight but significant loss of SWS cones (12%) and RGCs (20%) 16 weeks after streptozotocin injection. The loss of BRN3a-positive RGCs was also reflected by a 30% decline in BRN3a protein expression. These were accompanied by reduced ERG amplitudes and PhNRs. Importantly, the diabetic retinas demonstrated increased expression of TRIB3 and level of p-AKT/p-mTOR axis but reduced level of IRS-1 protein. Therefore, a new non-primate model of DR with SWS cone and RGC dysfunction lays the foundation to better understand retinal pathophysiology at the molecular level and opens an avenue for improving the research on the treatment of human eye diseases.
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    Author List

  • Gorbatyuk OS; Pitale PM; Saltykova IV; Dorofeeva IB; Zhylkibayev AA; Athar M; Fuchs PA; Samuels BC; Gorbatyuk MS
  • Volume

  • 12