Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leading cause of vision impairment in working age adults. In addition to hyperglycemia, retinal inflammation is an important driving factor for DR development. Although DR is clinically described as diabetes-induced damage to the retinal blood vessels, several studies have reported that metabolic dysregulation occurs in the retina prior to the development of microvascular damage. The two most commonly affected metabolic pathways in diabetic conditions are glycolysis and the glutamate pathway. We investigated the role of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and glutamine synthetase (GS) in an in-vitro model of DR incorporating high glucose and pro-inflammatory cytokines. We found that GAPDH and GS enzyme activity were not significantly affected in hyperglycemic conditions or after exposure to cytokines alone, but were significantly decreased in the DR model. This confirmed that pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNFα enhance the hyperglycemic metabolic deficit. We further investigated metabolite and amino acid levels after specific pharmacological inhibition of GAPDH or GS in the absence/presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The results indicate that GAPDH inhibition increased glucose and addition of cytokines increased lactate and ATP levels and reduced glutamate levels. GS inhibition did not alter retinal metabolite levels but the addition of cytokines increased ATP levels and caused glutamate accumulation in Müller cells. We conclude that it is the action of pro-inflammatory cytokines concomitantly with the inhibition of the glycolytic or GS mediated glutamate recycling that contribute to metabolic dysregulation in DR. Therefore, in the absence of good glycemic control, therapeutic interventions aimed at regulating inflammation may prevent the onset of early metabolic imbalance in DR.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.