Hyperglycemia is a key determinant for development of diabetic retinopathy (DR). Inadequate glycemic control exacerbates retinopathy, while normalization of glucose levels delays its progression. In hyperglycemia, hexokinase is saturated and excess glucose is metabolized to sorbitol by aldose reductase via the polyol pathway. Therapies to reduce retinal polyol accumulation for the prevention of DR have been elusive due to low sorbitol dehydrogenase levels in the retina and inadequate inhibition of aldose reductase. Using systemic and conditional genetic inactivation, we targeted the primary facilitative glucose transporter in the retina, Glut1, as a preventative therapeutic in diabetic male and female mice. Unlike wildtype diabetics, diabetic Glut1+/- mice did not display elevated Glut1 levels in the retina. Furthermore, diabetic Glut1+/- mice exhibited ameliorated ERG defects, inflammation and oxidative stress, which was correlated with a significant reduction in retinal sorbitol accumulation. RPE-specific reduction of Glut1 did not prevent an increase in retinal sorbitol content or early hallmarks of DR. However, like diabetic Glut1+/- mice, reduction of Glut1 specifically in retinal neurons mitigated polyol accumulation and completely prevented retinal dysfunction and the elevation of markers for oxidative stress and inflammation associated with diabetes. These results suggest that modulation of retinal polyol accumulation via Glut1 in photoreceptors can circumvent the difficulties in regulating systemic glucose metabolism and be exploited to prevent DR.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience