Complement Activation in the Vitreous of Patients With Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2020 Sep 1;61(11):39. doi: 10.1167/iovs.61.11.39.


Purpose: A growing body of evidence points to complement dysregulation in diabetes. Early studies have indicated the presence of complement components inside the eye in patients with diabetic retinopathy, but these data have been confounded by leakage of proteins from the systemic circulation into the vitreous cavity.

Methods: We took samples of plasma and vitreous from patients with and without proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) and measured levels of 16 complement components as well as albumin. We employed a normalized ratio using local and systemic complement and albumin levels to control for vascular leakage into the vitreous cavity.

Results: Before normalizing, we found significantly higher levels of 16 complement components we measured in PDR eyes compared to controls. After normalizing, levels of C4, factor B, and C5 were decreased compared to controls, while C3a and Ba levels were elevated compared to controls. We also found higher ratios of C3a/C3, C5a/C5, and Ba/factor B in PDR eyes compared to controls.

Conclusions: We found evidence of local, intraocular activation of C3, C5, and factor B. The normalized data suggest involvement of the alternative complement pathway. By showing activation of specific complement components in PDR, this study identifies targets for diagnostic and therapeutic potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Complement Activation / physiology*
  • Complement System Proteins / metabolism*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnosis
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / surgery
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vitrectomy
  • Vitreous Body / metabolism*
  • Vitreous Body / pathology


  • Complement System Proteins