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Exp Diabesity Res. 2004 Jan-Mar;5(1):91-6.

C-peptide and retinal microangiopathy in diabetes.

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Department of Pathology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Increased extracellular matrix (ECM) protein deposition and capillary basement membrane (BM) thickening are characteristic features of diabetic retinal microangiopathy. Recent observations in the authors' laboratories suggest that high glucose in endothelial cells as well as diabetes causes up-regulation of total fibronectin (FN), as well as extradomain-B (EDB) containing the spliced variant of FN, oncofetal FN, in the retina. This splice variant is normally absent in mature adult tissues and is believed to be involved in angiogenesis. In this study, the authors have investigated the role of C-peptide in the production of ECM proteins and capillary BM thickening in the retina of diabetic rats. They investigated retinas from poorly controlled diabetic BB/Wor rats with or without C-peptide treatment as well as those from age-matched nondiabetic control rats after 8 months of diabetes. In addition, the authors investigated retinas from BBDRZ/Wor rats, a model of type 2 diabetes. Following a treatment period of 8 months, retinal tissues were harvested for gene expression and histological analyses. In the retinas of diabetic BB/Wor rats, a significant increase of oncofetal FN was demonstrated compared to control rats. C-peptide treatment of BB/Wor rats completely prevented such increase. Furthermore, retinas from BBDRZ/Wor rats, did not exhibit any such alteration in oncofetal FN expression. The authors further examined retinal capillary BM thickening using ultrastructural morphometry. C-peptide treatment was ineffective in preventing the diabetes-induced increase in capillary BM thickness. The authors' previous studies of cultured endothelial cells demonstrated that oncofetal FN synthesis is, at least in part, mediated via transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) and endothelin-1 (ET-1). Hence, they examined these two transcripts in the retina of these animals. Diabetes caused significant increase in mRNA expression of ET-1 and TGF-beta, which was not prevented by C-peptide treatment. Hence it appears that C-peptide is effective in preventing diabetes-induced oncofetal FN expression and that these effects are not mediated via ET-1 or TGF-beta. In conclusion, these data suggest that C-peptide is involved in regulating ECM protein composition. Furthermore, normalization of diabetes-induced oncofetal FN up-regulation may suggest importance of C-peptide in advanced alterations in diabetic retinopathy such as angiogenesis.

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