Targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)/its receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) system has become a mainstay of treatment for many human diseases, including retinal diseases. We examined the therapeutic effect of recently developed N-acetylated Arg-Leu-Tyr-Glu (Ac-RLYE), a human plasminogen kringle-5 domain-derived VEGFR-2 antagonists, on the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. Ac-RLYE inhibited VEGF-A-mediated VEGFR-2 activation and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS)-derived NO production in the retinas of diabetic mice. In addition, Ac-RLYE prevented the disruption of adherens and tight junctions and vascular leakage by inhibiting S-nitrosylation of β-catenin and tyrosine nitration of p190RhoGAP in the retinal vasculature of diabetic mice. Peptide treatment preserved the pericyte coverage of retinal capillaries by upregulating angiopoietin-2. These results suggest that Ac-RLYE potentially prevents blood-retinal barrier breakdown and vascular leakage by antagonizing VEGFR-2; Ac-RLYE can be used as a potential therapeutic drug for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
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