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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010 Nov;51(11):5979-90. doi: 10.1167/iovs.10-5377. Epub 2010 May 19.

Diabetes-induced inhibition of voltage-dependent calcium channels in the retinal microvasculature: role of spermine.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.



Although decentralized control of blood flow is particularly important in the retina, knowledge of the functional organization of the retinal microvasculature is limited. Here, the authors characterized the distribution and regulation of L-type voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCCs) within the most decentralized operational complex of the retinal vasculature--the feeder vessel/capillary unit--which consists of a capillary network plus the vessel linking it with a myocyte-encircled arteriole.


Perforated-patch recordings, calcium-imaging, and time-lapse photography were used to assess VDCC-dependent changes in ionic currents, intracellular calcium, abluminal cell contractility, and lumen diameter, in microvascular complexes freshly isolated from the rat retina.


Topographical heterogeneity was found in the distribution of functional VDCCs; VDCC activity was markedly greater in feeder vessels than in capillaries. Experiments showed that this topographical distribution occurs, in large part, because of the inhibition of capillary VDCCs by a mechanism dependent on the endogenous polyamine spermine. An operational consequence of functional VDCCs predominantly located in the feeder vessels is that voltage-driven vasomotor responses are generated chiefly in this portion of the feeder vessel/capillary unit. However, early in the course of diabetes, this ability to generate voltage-driven vasomotor responses becomes profoundly impaired because of the inhibition of feeder vessel VDCCs by a spermine-dependent mechanism.


The regulation of VDCCs by endogenous spermine not only plays a critical role in establishing the physiological organization of the feeder vessel/capillary unit, but also may contribute to dysfunction of this decentralized operational unit in the diabetic retina.

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