High glucose and oxidative/nitrosative stress conditions induce apoptosis in retinal endothelial cells by a caspase-independent pathway

Ermelindo C. Leal, Celia A. Aveleira, Aurea F. Castilho, Andreia M. Serra, Filipa I. Baptista, Ken-Ichi Hosoya, John Vincent Forrester, Antonio F. Ambrosio

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49 Citations (Scopus)


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a leading cause of vision loss among working-age adults. Retinal endothelial cell apoptosis is an early event in DR, and oxidative stress is known to play an important role in this pathology. Recently, we found that high glucose induces apoptosis in retinal neural cells by a caspase-independent mechanism. Here, we investigated the mechanisms underlying retinal endothelial cell apoptosis induced by high glucose and oxidative/nitrosative stress conditions. Endothelial cells (TR-iBRB2 rat retinal endothelial cell line) were exposed to high glucose (long-term exposure, 7 days), or to NOC-18 (nitric oxide donor; 250 mu M) or H2O2 (100 mu M) for 24 h. Cell viability was assessed by the MTT assay and cell proliferation by [methyl-H-3]-thymidine incorporation into DNA. Apoptotic cells were detected with Hoechst or Annexin V staining. Active caspases were detected by an apoptosis detection kit. Active caspase-3 and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) protein levels were assessed by Western blot or immunohistochemistry. High glucose, NOC-18 and H2O2 increased apoptosis in retinal endothelial cells. High glucose and mannitol decreased cell proliferation, but mannitol did not induce apoptosis. Caspase activation did not increase in high glucose- or NOC-18-treated cells, but it increased in cells exposed to H2O2. However, the protein levels of AIF decreased in mitochondrial fractions and increased in nuclear fractions, in all conditions. These results are the first demonstrating that retinal endothelial cell apoptosis induced by high glucose is independent of caspase activation, and is correlated with AIF translocation to the nucleus. NOC-18 and H2O2 also activate a caspase-independent apoptotic pathway, although H2O2 can also induce caspase-mediated apoptosis. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-991
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Issue number5
Early online date3 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • diabetic retinopathy
  • apoptosis
  • AIF
  • caspase
  • endothelial cell
  • oxidative/nitrosative stress
  • diabetic-retinopathy
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • death
  • activation
  • complications
  • aminoguanidine
  • degeneration
  • superoxide
  • mechanisms

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