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ICAM-1 on the luminal surface of endothelial cells is induced to a greater extent in mouse retina than in other tissues in diabetes.



Induction of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) has been implicated in the development of macrovascular and microvascular diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. Lesions of diabetic retinopathy are unique to the retina but the reason for this is unclear, as all tissues are exposed to the same hyperglycaemic insult. We tested whether diabetes induces ICAM-1 on the luminal surface of endothelial cells to a greater extent in the retina than in other tissues and the role of vision itself in that induction.


Experimental diabetes was induced in C57Bl/6J, P23H opsin mutant and Gnat1-/- × Gnat2-/- double knockout mice using streptozotocin. The relative abundance of ICAM-1 on the luminal surface of endothelial cells in retina and other tissues was determined by conjugating anti-ICAM-1 antibodies to fluorescent microspheres (2 μm), injecting them intravenously and allowing them to circulate for 30 min. After transcardial perfusion, quantification of microspheres adherent to the endothelium in tissues throughout the body was carried out by fluorescent microscopy or flow cytometry. Mice injected with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) were used as positive controls. The difference in leucostasis between retinal and non-retinal vasculature was evaluated.


Diabetes significantly increased ICAM-1-mediated adherence of microspheres to retinal microvessels by almost threefold, independent of sex. In contrast, diabetes had a much smaller effect on endothelial ICAM-1 in other tissues, and more tissues showed a significant induction of endothelial ICAM-1 with LPS than with diabetes. The diabetes-induced increase in endothelial ICAM-1 in retinal vasculature was inhibited by blocking phototransduction in photoreceptor cells. Diabetes significantly increased leucostasis in the retina by threefold compared with a non-ocular tissue (cremaster).


The diabetes-induced upregulation of ICAM-1 on the luminal surface of the vascular endothelium varies considerably among tissues and is highest in the retina. Induction of ICAM-1 on retinal vascular endothelial cells in diabetes is influenced by vision-related processes in photoreceptor cells. The unique presence of photoreceptors in the retina might contribute to the greater susceptibility of this tissue to vascular disease in diabetes.

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