Anti-VEGF-based treatment have been regularly used in recent years in proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) patients. However, some of these patients fail to respond effectively to anti-VEGF. Given that VEGF is not the sole factor influencing PDR pathogenesis and that different anti-VEGF pharmaceuticals are likely to differentially impact these underlying pathophysiological processes, we performed a prospective analysis of the protein profiles of the aqueous humor (AH) in PDR patients before and after treatment with three intravitreal anti-VEGF drugs (ranibizumab, aflibercept, and conbercept) to assess and compare the short-term impacts of these agents. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)-based proteomic methods were used to evaluate the AH protein profiles of PDR patients using paired pre- and 7 days post-anti-VEGF treatment samples (ranibizumab [IVR]: n = 10; conbercept [IVC]: n = 10; aflibercept [IVA]: n = 5). Gene ontology (GO) annotation, KEGG pathway analyses, and protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks were then used to explore the functional relevance of proteins that were differentially expressed between groups. Here, a total of 874 proteins from 25 patients (50 AH samples) were identified in the three patient groups. Different and common clusters of regulated proteins for each group were identified. We identified RARRES1, ALDH3A1, and RBP4 as being specifically regulated following treatment with all three tested anti-VEGF agents. We further found that VEGFR1, VEGFR2, APOM, hornerin, and HSP90B1 were differentially expressed in different anti-VEGF agent groups. In summary, we discovered that ALDH3A1 was a previously unreported protein that was related to angiogenesis and was differentially expressed in the three anti-VEGF treatment groups, suggesting that it may be a new target for PDR therapy. The described proteomic changes in the AH of PDR patients treated with different anti-VEGF agents provide novel targets which may explain the heterogeneity of anti-VEGF treatment responses in these patients, providing a robust foundation for future studies of PDR pathogenesis.
Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Ltd.