Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. Increased iron accumulation is associated with several degenerative diseases. However, there are no reports on the status of retinal iron or its implications in the pathogenesis of DR. In the present study, we found that retinas of type-1 and type-2 mouse models of diabetes have increased iron accumulation compared to non-diabetic retinas. We found similar iron accumulation in postmortem retinal samples from human diabetic patients. Further, we induced diabetes in HFE knockout (KO) mice model of genetic iron overload to understand the role of iron in the pathogenesis of DR. We found increased neuronal cell death, vascular alterations and loss of retinal barrier integrity in diabetic HFE KO mice compared to diabetic wildtype mice. Diabetic HFE KO mouse retinas also exhibited increased expression of inflammation and oxidative stress markers. Severity in the pathogenesis of DR in HFE KO mice was accompanied by increase in retinal renin expression mediated by G-protein-coupled succinate receptor GPR91. In light of previous reports implicating retinal renin-angiotensin system in DR pathogenesis, our results reveal a novel relationship between diabetes, iron and renin-angiotensin system, thereby unraveling new therapeutic targets for the treatment of DR.
ASJC Scopus subject areas