Protective effects of agonists of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) in early experimental diabetic retinopathy

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The potential therapeutic effects of agonistic analogs of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) and their mechanism of action were investigated in diabetic retinopathy (DR). Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats (STZ-rats) were treated with 15 μg/kg GHRH agonist, MR-409, or GHRH antagonist, MIA-602. At the end of treatment, morphological and biochemical analyses assessed the effects of these compounds on retinal neurovascular injury induced by hyperglycemia. The expression levels of GHRH and its receptor (GHRH-R) measured by qPCR and Western blotting were significantly down-regulated in retinas of STZ-rats and in human diabetic retinas (postmortem) compared with their respective controls. Treatment of STZ-rats with the GHRH agonist, MR-409, prevented retinal morphological alteration induced by hyperglycemia, particularly preserving survival of retinal ganglion cells. The reverse, using the GHRH antagonist, MIA-602, resulted in worsening of retinal morphology and a significant alteration of the outer retinal layer. Explaining these results, we have found that MR-409 exerted antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in retinas of the treated rats, as shown by up-regulation of NRF-2-dependent gene expression and down-regulation of proinflammatory cytokines and adhesion molecules. MR-409 also significantly down-regulated the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor while increasing that of pigment epithelium-derived factor in diabetic retinas. These effects correlated with decreased vascular permeability. In summary, our findings suggest a neurovascular protective effect of GHRH analogs during the early stage of diabetic retinopathy through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13248-13253
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - Dec 12 2017



  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • GH
  • GHRH
  • GHRH-R
  • Type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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