Inhibition of Atypical Protein Kinase C Reduces Inflammation-Induced Retinal Vascular Permeability

Am J Pathol. 2018 Oct;188(10):2392-2405. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2018.06.020. Epub 2018 Sep 13.


Changes in permeability of retinal blood vessels contribute to macular edema and the pathophysiology of numerous ocular diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusions, and macular degeneration. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induces retinal permeability and macular thickening in these diseases. However, inflammatory agents, such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), also may drive vascular permeability, specifically in patients unresponsive to anti-VEGF therapy. Recent evidence suggests VEGF and TNF-α induce permeability through distinct mechanisms; however, both require the activation of atypical protein kinase C (aPKC). We provide evidence, using genetic mouse models and therapeutic intervention with small molecules, that inhibition of aPKC prevented or reduced vascular permeability in animal models of retinal inflammation. Expression of a kinase-dead aPKC transgene, driven by a vascular and hematopoietic restricted promoter, reduced retinal vascular permeability in an ischemia-reperfusion model of retinal injury. This effect was recapitulated with a small-molecule inhibitor of aPKC. Expression of the kinase-dead aPKC transgene dramatically reduced the expression of inflammatory factors and blocked the attraction of inflammatory monocytes and granulocytes after ischemic injury. Coinjection of VEGF with TNF-α was sufficient to induce permeability, edema, and retinal inflammation, and treatment with an aPKC inhibitor prevented VEGF/TNF-α-induced permeability. These data suggest that aPKC contributes to inflammation-driven retinal vascular pathology and may be an attractive target for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capillary Permeability / drug effects
  • Capillary Permeability / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Papilledema / chemically induced
  • Papilledema / physiopathology
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Reperfusion Injury / physiopathology
  • Retinal Vessels / physiology*
  • Retinitis / chemically induced
  • Retinitis / physiopathology
  • Tight Junctions / chemistry
  • Tight Junctions / physiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / pharmacology


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A, rat
  • Protein Kinase C