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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2014 Sep 12;452(1):112-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2014.08.057. Epub 2014 Aug 22.

Ascorbic acid prevents high glucose-induced apoptosis in human brain pericytes.

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Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.
Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.


High glucose concentrations due to diabetes increase apoptosis of vascular pericytes, impairing vascular regulation and weakening vessels, especially in brain and retina. We sought to determine whether vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, could prevent such high glucose-induced increases in pericyte apoptosis. Culture of human microvascular brain pericytes at 25 mM compared to 5mM glucose increased apoptosis measured as the appearance of cleaved caspase 3. Loading the cells with ascorbate during culture decreased apoptosis, both at 5 and 25 mM glucose. High glucose-induced apoptosis was due largely to activation of the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE), since it was prevented by specific RAGE inhibition. Culture of pericytes for 24h with RAGE agonists also increased apoptosis, which was completely prevented by inclusion of 100 μM ascorbate. Ascorbate also prevented RAGE agonist-induced apoptosis measured as annexin V binding in human retinal pericytes, a cell type with relevance to diabetic retinopathy. RAGE agonists decreased intracellular ascorbate and GSH in brain pericytes. Despite this evidence of increased oxidative stress, ascorbate prevention of RAGE-induced apoptosis was not mimicked by several antioxidants. These results show that ascorbate prevents pericyte apoptosis due RAGE activation. Although RAGE activation decreases intracellular ascorbate and GSH, the prevention of apoptosis by ascorbate may involve effects beyond its function as an antioxidant.


Apoptosis; Ascorbate; High glucose; Oxidative stress; Pericytes; RAGE

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