Loss of the blood-retinal barrier (BRB) integrity and subsequent damage to the neurovascular unit in the retina are the underlying reasons for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Damage to BRB eventually leads to severe visual impairment in the absence of prompt intervention. Diabetic macular edema and proliferative DR are the advanced stages of the disease where BRB integrity is altered. Primary mechanisms contributing to BRB dysfunction include loss of cell-cell barrier junctions, vascular endothelial growth factor, advanced glycation end products-induced damage, and oxidative stress. Although much is known about the involvement of adherens and tight-junction proteins in the regulation of vascular permeability in various diseases, there is a significant gap in our knowledge on the junctional proteins expressed in the BRB and how BRB function is modulated in the diabetic retina. In this review article, we present our current understanding of the molecular composition of BRB, the changes in the BRB junctional protein turnover in DR, and how BRB functional modulation affects vascular permeability and macular edema in the diabetic retina.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Ltd.