OBJECTIVE-Pathogenic mechanisms underlying diabetes-induced retinal dysfunction are not fully understood. The aim of the present study was to show the relationship of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) with the synaptic vesicle protein synaptophysin and neuronal activity in the diabetic retina. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS-C57BL/6 mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes were treated with the angioten-sin II type 1 receptor (AT1R) blocker telimsartan or valsartan, and retinal function was analyzed by electroretinography. Retinal production of the RAS components and phosphorylation of ERK (extracellular- signal regulated kinase) were examined by immu-noblotting. Retinal mRNA and protein levels of synaptophysin were measured by quantitative RT-PCR and immunoblot analyses, respectively. In vitro, synaptophysin levels were also evaluated using angiotensin II-stimulated PC12D neuronal cells cultured with or without the inhibition of ERK signaling or the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). RESULTS-Induction of diabetes led to a significant increase in retinal production of angiotensin II and AT1R together with ERK activation in the downstream of AT1R. AT1R blockade significantly reversed diabetes-induced electroretinography changes and reduction of synaptophysin protein, but not mRNA, levels in the diabetic retina. In agreement with the AT1R-mediated post-transcriptional downregulation of synaptophysin in vivo, in vitro application of angiotensin II to PC12D neuronal cells caused the UPS-mediated degradation of synaptophysin protein via AT1R, which proved to be induced by ERK activation. CONCLUSIONS-These data indicate the first molecular evidence of the RAS-induced synaptophysin degradation and neuronal dysfunction in the diabetic retina, suggesting the possibility of the AT1R blockade as a novel neuroprotective treatment for diabetic retinopathy.
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