Purpose: Apoptosis of retinal capillary cells is an early event in the pathogenesis of retinopathy in diabetes, and oxidative stress has been linked to accelerated apoptosis of retinal capillary cells. Mitochondria are the major endogenous source of superoxide, and superoxide is considered to be a causal link between elevated glucose and the major biochemical pathways postulated to be involved in the development of vascular complications in diabetes. The purpose of the present study is to determine the role of mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) in the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Methods: The effect of overexpression of MnSOD on glucose-induced endothelial cell oxidative stress, nitrosative stress, and apoptosis was determined by using bovine retinal endothelial cells. Furthermore, the effect of diabetes in rats (11 months' duration) on the activity and the mRNA expression of retinal MnSOD were also determined.
Results: MnSOD activity in the nontransfected control retinal endothelial cells was 20% compared with the total SOD activity and was increased to 60% in the MnSOD-transfected cells. MnSOD overexpression prevented a glucose-induced increase in oxidative stress (8-hydroxy guanosine levels), nitrosative stress (nitrotyrosine formation), and apoptosis of retinal endothelial cells. MnSOD enzyme activity and its mRNA were decreased significantly in the retina obtained from the diabetic rats, and these abnormalities were prevented by long-term lipoic acid therapy.
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest a protective role for MnSOD in retinal capillary cell death and, ultimately, in the pathogenesis of retinopathy in diabetes. Understanding the role of MnSOD to modify the course of retinopathy could elucidate important molecular targets for future pharmacological interventions.