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Impact of obesity with impaired glucose tolerance on retinal degeneration in a rat model of metabolic syndrome.



Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with several degenerative diseases, including retinal degeneration. Previously, we reported on progressive retinal degeneration in a spontaneous obese rat (WNIN/Ob) model. In this study, we investigated the additional effect of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), an essential component of MetS, on retinal degeneration using the WNIN/GR-Ob rat model.


The retinal morphology and ultrastructure of WNIN/GR-Ob and age-matched littermate lean rats were studied by microscopy and immunohistochemistry. The retinal transcriptome of WNIN/GR-Ob was compared with the respective lean controls and with the WNIN/Ob model using microarray analysis. Expression of selected retinal marker genes was studied via real-time PCR.


Progressive loss of photoreceptor cells was observed in WNIN/GR-Ob rats with an onset as early as 3 months. Similarly, thinning of the inner nuclear layer was observed from 6 months in these rats. Immunohistochemical analysis showed decreased levels of rhodopsin and postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95) proteins and increased levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and calretinin in WNIN/GR-Ob rats compared with the age-matched lean controls, further supporting cellular stress/damage and retinal degeneration. The retinal transcriptome analysis indicated altered expression profiles in both the WNIN/GR-Ob and WNIN/Ob rat models compared to their respective lean controls; these pathways are associated with activation of pathways like cellular oxidative stress response, inflammation, apoptosis, and phototransduction, although the changes were more prominent in WNIN/GR-Ob than in WNIN/Ob animals.


WNIN/GR-Ob rats with added glucose intolerance developed retinal degeneration similar to the parent line WNIN/Ob. The severity of retinal degeneration was greater in WNIN/GR-Ob rats compared to WNIN/Ob, suggesting a possible role for IGT in this model. Hence, the WNIN/GR-Ob model could be a valuable tool for investigating the impact of MetS on retinal degeneration pathology.

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