Previous studies have shown that in diabetic patients, there is an increase of retinal capillaries associated with the development of diabetic retinopathy in the eye. The objective of current study is to investigate the effect of glucose on retinal endothelial cell viability and VEGF secretion. 20,000 cells per well were treated without glucose or with 5.5mM (euglycemic), 18.5mM and 30mM (hyperglycemic) glucose for 24 hours. Viable cells were counted using Trypan blue dye exclusion method. ELISA was used to measure VEGF secretion from cells into the cell medium. The number of viable cells incubated with 5.5mM glucose (physiological control) increased by 53.7% after 24 hours. In comparison, cells treated with 18.5mM glucose decreased by 2.8% while cells treated with 30mM glucose decreased by 20% after 24 hours of incubation. Cells without glucose treatment
(0mM control) decreased by 33.3%. In contrast to the decrease of viable cell numbers after treatment with high glucose, there is an increase in VEGF secretion (pg/mL) to the cell medium with increase in glucose concentration from 5.5mM to 0, 18.5, and 30mM. The amount of VEGF secreted per cell also increased with increasing glucose concentrations. Our results show that viability of retinal endothelial cells and VEGF release are highly responsive to changes in glucose concentration. Such glucose-induced changes in retinal endothelial cells may negatively impact the integrity of the microvasculature in the diabetic retina leading to angiogenesis and microaneursyms.
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia). Diabetes is highly prevalent in developing countries and is estimated to affect approximately 439 million people by 2030 , suggesting that diabetes is a global health problem. This chronic disease has long-term effects on kidneys, nerves, the heart, and other major organs [2,3]. One such complication affects the eye and is known as Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). DR is one of the leading causes for blindness, which affects approximately 93 million people worldwide. The key determinants in development of DR are diabetic duration, glycemic control, and genetics [4,5]. In the United States, 1 out of 12 persons with diabetes mellitus, age 40 and older, has advanced vision threatening retinopathy . Angiogenesis is a significant process in the development of diabetic retinopathy. A strong controller and promoter of angiogenesis, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) is a specific mitogen that induces new blood vessel formation by targeting growth and differentiation of endothelial cells . In diabetic patients, VEGF is excessively produced in the retina resulting in endothelial cell proliferation, tissue damage, fluid leakage, new blood vessel formation , and microaneurysms. The polymorphisms in the VEGF gene are associated with VEGF expression and diabetic retinopathy [9,10]. Previously, we reported high glucose changes cell viability and VEGF secretion in Müller cells, retinal Pericytes, and ARPE 19 cells [11-13]. We hypothesize that the viability of retinal endothelial cells and their secretion of VEGF is significantly impacted by changes in glucose concentration. The objectives of our current study is to compare the effects of high glucose on viability of endothelial cells and their VEGF secretion compared to no-glucose and physiological glucose controls. Our novel findings in Rhesus Monkey retinal endothelial cells may help us establish a model for further research in the diabetic, non-human primate eye.
In the present study, it was observed that changes in RhREC confluence and viability over a 24 hour period was dependent on glucose concentration. Physiological glucose significantly increased cell number but hyper- or hypoglycemic conditions induced a significant decrease in cell number (Figure 2). Our results validate the hypothesis that a change in glucose concentration induces change in the number of RhREC. It is of great interest to point out the 18.5mM glucose treatment did not result in a large change in cell number compared to T0. When related to diabetic conditions in humans, it is possible that uncontrolled hyperglycemic conditions in excess of plasma levels of 18.5mM may result in a large reduction in retinal endothelial cells leading to complications such as angiogenesis and microaneurysms. We have previously reported that treatment of high glucose (18mM, 33mM and 40mM) for a period of 5 days caused significant decreases in cell viability in primary human retinal pericytes . When ARPE 19 cells were treated with high glucose (18mM) for 8 days there were significant increases in cell viability . Retinal Müller cells treated with no glucose for 24 hours resulted in a decrease in cell viability, however high glucose (30mM) increased cell viability . Previous studies on primary human retinal endothelial cells show that high glucose increased cell viability [14,15]. The differences in our findings compared to those published are likely due to inter- species differences (human vs rhesus monkey) as well as the transformation of the rhesus monkey retinal endothelial cells compared to the primary human line reported by our colleagues.
RhREC subjected to treatment with higher glucose concentrations resulted in a significant increase in VEGF levels in the conditioned media (Figure 3). Dunnett’s multiple comparison test suggests a significant change between VEGF levels in RhREC treated with 0mM or 5.5mM as well.
In human synovial fibroblasts, treatment with 33mM glucose for a 24 hour period resulted in an increase in VEGF secretion from the cells into the medium . In earlier reports, high glucose not only induced changes in viable cell number but also increased VEGF secretion in cell medium from human retinal pericytes and ARPE-19 [12,13]. Vellanki et al., 2016 showed that both high and low glucose treatments resulted in an increase in VEGF secretion into cell medium from rat and human müller cells . Primary human retinal endothelial cells show that high glucose stimulates VEGF expression [14,15] and Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVEC) treated with high glucose (25mM/L) resulted in a decrease in VEGF secretion in cell medium. This contrasting effect to our reports may be due to the difference in cell type and exposure time compared to our rhesus monkey cell line .
In the current study, the amount of VEGF secreted per cell increased significantly with changes in glucose concentration from 0, 18.5 or 30mM compared to physiological (5.5mM) conditions (Figure 4). These results are consistent with our previous findings in which increasing glucose concentrations to 18.5mM resulted in an increase in VEGF secretion per cell from both ARPE-19 and human retinal pericytes.
Our study observed that glucose deprived conditions induce a more pro-angiogenic response than high glucose conditions. It is not clear how VEGF affects RhREC proliferation. Further studies are required to determine the interactive effect of glucose, VEGF, RhREC proliferation, and VEGF levels inside the cell. It is possible that glucose may induce apoptosis of RhREC via a molecular mechanism involving TGFβ similar to that reported earlier . Overall, our data clearly suggests that glucose concentration has a significant effect on the viability of RhREC in culture as well as their secretion of VEGF. We plan to extend our current results to include longer time points and assays to better understand the mechanism of viability change as well as the changes in VEGF secretion. Nevertheless, such glucose effects on RhREC number and VEGF release are novel and important as they provide innovative approaches to investigate the cause of angiogenesis in diabetic retinopathy.
Authors thank the RCMI Program from the National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities (G12MD007591) at the National Institute of Health and the IMARI Program at Oakwood University.
Citation: Betts-Obregon BS, Vellanki S, Buikema J, Tsin AT, Wright K (2016) Effect of Glucose on Retinal Endothelial Cell Viability and VEGF Secretion. J Cell Biol Cell Metab 3: 008.
Copyright: © 2016 Brandi S Betts-Obregon, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.