Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a chronic microvascular complication of diabetes that may lead to loss of vision. The pathogenesis of DR is complex and elevated expression levels of T helper (Th)17 cells and interleukin (IL)-17 have been suggested to be associated with the development and progression of DR. Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) is a nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide+-dependent histone deacetylase that is downregulated in patients with DR. Previous studies have demonstrated that SIRT1 is capable of inhibiting the production of IL-17. In the present study, 19 patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) and 20 non-diabetic controls with idiopathic macular epiretinal membranes were recruited and the SIRT1 expression levels of excised specimens were analyzed using immunohistochemistry. IL-17 expression levels in the sera from patients with PDR and controls were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Furthermore, SIRT1 mRNA and protein expression levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from the two groups were analyzed following culture with or without a SIRT1 activator, resveratrol. IL-17 expression levels in the supernatants of PBMCs were determined using ELISA and the results demonstrated that IL-17 expression levels were increased in the sera of patients with PDR, as compared with the controls. Furthermore, increased expression levels of SIRT1 and IL-17 were detected in fibrovascular membranes and PBMCs harvested from patients with PDR, respectively. Notably, SIRT1 mRNA and protein expression levels were decreased in the PBMCs of patients with PDR and IL-17 production was inhibited following SIRT1 activation. The results of the present study indicated that imbalanced IL-17 and SIRT1 expression levels may contribute to the pathogenesis of DR, and SIRT1 may have a protective role in PDR by inhibiting the production of IL-17.
Keywords: epiretinal membrane; interleukin-17; proliferative diabetic retinopathy; resveratrol; sirtuin.