Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor expression in the human eye

Diabetes Obes Metab. 2018 Sep;20(9):2304-2308. doi: 10.1111/dom.13339. Epub 2018 May 24.


Semaglutide is a human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue that is in development for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In the pre-approval cardiovascular outcomes trial SUSTAIN 6, semaglutide was associated with a significant increase in the risk of diabetic retinopathy (DR) complications vs placebo. GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) expression has previously been demonstrated in the retina in animals and humans; however, antibodies used to detect expression have been documented to be non-specific and fail to detect the GLP-1R using immunohistochemistry (IHC), a problem common for many G-protein coupled receptors. Using a validated GLP-1R antibody for IHC and in situ hybridization for GLP-1R mRNA in normal human eyes, GLP-1Rs were detected in a small fraction of neurons in the ganglion cell layer. In advanced stages of DR, GLP-1R expression was not detected at the protein or mRNA level. Specifically, no GLP-1R expression was found in the eyes of people with long-standing proliferative DR (PDR). In conclusion, GLP-1R expression is low in normal human eyes and was not detected in eyes exhibiting advanced stages of PDR.

Keywords: GLP-1 analogue; cardiovascular disease; diabetes complications; diabetic retinopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism*
  • Eye / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor
  • RNA, Messenger