Expression and activation of the ketone body receptor HCAR2/GPR109A promotes preservation of retinal endothelial cell barrier function.

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Experimental eye research


Preservation of retinal barrier function is critical to maintenance of retinal health. Therefore, it is not surprising that loss of barrier integrity is a pathologic feature common to degenerative retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. Our prior studies demonstrate the importance of hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 2/GPR109A (HCAR2/GPR109A) expression in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) to outer retinal barrier integrity. However, whether HCAR2/GPR109A is expressed in retinal endothelial cells and has a similar relationship to inner blood retinal barrier regulation is not known. In the current study, we examined relevance of receptor expression to endothelial cell dependent-blood retinal barrier integrity. siRNA technology was used to modulate HCAR2/GPR109A expression in human retinal endothelial cells (HRECs). Cells were cultured in the presence or absence of VEGF, a pro-inflammatory stimulus, and/or various concentrations of the HCAR2/GPR109A-specific agonist beta-hydyroxybutyrate (BHB). HCAR2/GPR109A expression was monitored by qPCR and electrical cell impedance sensing (ECIS) was used to evaluate barrier function. Complementary in vivo studies were conducted in wildtype and HCAR2/GPR109A knockout mice treated intraperitoneally with lipopolysaccharide and/or BHB. Vascular leakage was monitored using fluorescein angiography and Western blot analyses of albumin extravasation. Additionally, retinal function was evaluated by OptoMotry. Decreased (siRNA knockdown) or absent (gene knockout) HCAR2/GPR109A expression was associated with impaired barrier function both in vitro and in vivo. BHB treatment provided some protection, limiting disruptions in retinal barrier integrity and function; an effect that was found to be receptor (HCAR2/GPR109A)-dependent. Collectively, the present studies support a key role for HCAR2/GPR109A in regulating blood-retinal barrier integrity and highlight the therapeutic potential of the receptor toward preventing and treating retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy in which compromised barrier function is paramount.



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