Endothelin receptor-A antagonist attenuates retinal vascular and neuroretinal pathology in diabetic mice

Jonathan C Chou, Stuart D Rollins, Minghao Ye, Daniel Batlle, Amani A Fawzi
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 2014, 55 (4): 2516-25

PURPOSE: We sought to determine the effects of atrasentan, a selective endothelin-A receptor antagonist, on the retinal vascular and structural integrity in a db/db mouse, an animal model of type 2 diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.

METHODS: Diabetic mice, 23 weeks old, were given either atrasentan or vehicle treatment in drinking water for 8 weeks. At the end of the treatment period, eyes underwent trypsin digest to assess the retinal vascular pathology focusing on capillary degeneration, endothelial cell, and pericyte loss. Paraffin-embedded retinal cross sections were used to evaluate retinal sublayer thickness both near the optic nerve and in the retinal periphery. Immunohistochemistry and TUNEL assay were done to evaluate retinal cellular and vascular apoptosis.

RESULTS: Compared with untreated db/db mice, atrasentan treatment was able to ameliorate the retinal vascular pathology by reducing pericyte loss (29.2% ± 0.4% vs. 44.4% ± 2.0%, respectively, P < 0.05) and capillary degeneration as determined by the percentage of acellular capillaries (8.6% ± 0.3% vs. 3.3% ± 0.41%, respectively, P < 0.05). A reduction in inner retinal thinning both at the optic nerve and at the periphery in treated diabetic mice was also observed in db/db mice treated with atrasentan as compared with untreated db/db mice (P < 0.05). TUNEL assay suggested that atrasentan may decrease enhanced apoptosis in neuroretinal layers and vascular pericytes in the db/db mice.

CONCLUSIONS: Endothelin-A receptor blockade using atrasentan significantly reduces the vascular and neuroretinal complications in diabetic mice. Endothelin-A receptor blockade is a promising therapeutic target in diabetic retinopathy.

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