Purpose: Recent studies have provided evidence that a local renin-angiotensin system (RAS) exists in the retina and plays an important role in retinal neurovascular function. We have recently shown that increased expression of ACE2 and angiotensin (1-7) [Ang (1-7)], two components of the protective axis of the RAS, in the retina via adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene delivery, conferred protection against diabetes-induced retinopathy. We hypothesized that the protective molecular and cellular mechanisms of Ang (1-7) are mediated by its receptor, Mas, and the expression level and cellular localization dictate the response to Ang (1-7) and activation of subsequent protective signaling pathways. We tested this hypothesis by examining the expression and cellular localization of the Mas receptor in adult and developing mouse retinas.
Methods: The cellular localization of the Mas receptor protein was determined with immunofluorescence of the eyes of adult and postnatal day 1 (P1), P5, P7, P15, and P21 mice using the Mas receptor-specific antibody, and mRNA was detected with in situ hybridization of paraffin-embedded sections. Western blotting and real-time reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR analysis were performed to determine the relative levels of the Mas protein and mRNA in adult and developing retinas, as well as in cultured retinal Müller glial and RPE cells.
Results: In the adult eye, the Mas receptor protein was abundantly present in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and photoreceptor cells; a lower level of expression was observed in endothelial cells, Müller glial cells, and other neurons in the inner nuclear layer of the retina. In the developing retina, Mas receptor mRNA and protein expression was detected in the inner retina at P1, and the expression levels increased with age to reach the adult level and pattern by P15. In the adult mouse retina, Mas receptor mRNA was expressed at a much higher level when compared to angiotensin II (Ang II) type I (AT1R) and type II (AT2R) receptor mRNA.
Conclusions: The Mas receptor is expressed in developing and adult mouse retinas, and is more abundant in retinal neurons than in endothelial and Müller glial cells. These observations suggest that Mas receptor-mediated signaling may play important roles that extend beyond mediating the vascular effects of Ang (1-7) in developing and adult retinas. In addition, the relatively high expression of the Mas receptor when compared to AT1R suggests that they may play a more important role in maintaining normal retinal physiology than previously considered.