FOXO1 Plays an Important Role in Enhanced Microvascular Cell Apoptosis and Microvascular Cell Loss in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetic Rats

  1. Dana T. Graves3
  1. 1Department of Periodontology and Oral Biology, Boston University School of Dental Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts;
  2. 2Departments of Medicine and Ophthalmology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts; and
  3. 3Department of Periodontics, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey.
  1. Corresponding author: Dana T. Graves, gravesdt{at}


OBJECTIVE To investigate early events leading to microvascular cell loss in diabetic retinopathy.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS FOXO1 was tested in vivo by DNA binding activity and by nuclear translocation in microvascular cells in retinal trypsin digests. In vivo studies were undertaken in STZ-induced diabetic rats and Zucker diabetic fatty rats using the tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-specific blocker, pegsunercept, or by inhibiting FOXO1 with RNAi. Microvascular cell apoptosis, formation of pericyte ghosts, and acellular capillaries were measured. Upstream and downstream effects of high-glucose–induced FOXO1 were tested on rat microvascular endothelial cells (RMECs) by small-interfering RNA (siRNA) in vitro.

RESULTS DNA binding or nuclear translocation of FOXO1, which was reduced by TNF inhibition, was elevated in type 1 and type 2 diabetic retinas. Diabetes stimulated microvascular cell apoptosis; pericyte ghost and acellular capillary development was inhibited by FOXO1 siRNA. High glucose in vitro decreased FOXO1 phosphorylation and DNA binding activity and decreased Akt phosphorylation in RMECs. High-glucose–stimulated FOXO1 DNA binding activity was mediated through TNF-α and formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), while inhibitors of TNF and ROS and FOXO1 siRNA reduced high-glucose–enhanced RMEC apoptosis. The caspase-3/7 activity and capacity of high glucose to increase mRNA levels of several genes that regulate RMEC activation and apoptosis were knocked down by FOXO1 siRNA.

CONCLUSIONS FOXO1 plays an important role in rat retinal microvascular cell loss in type 1 and type 2 diabetic rats and can be linked to the effect of high glucose on FOXO1 activation.


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  • Received April 22, 2008.
  • Accepted December 16, 2008.

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