Regulation of Adrenergic, Serotonin, and Dopamine Receptors to Inhibit Diabetic Retinopathy: Monotherapies versus Combination Therapies

Mol Pharmacol. 2021 Nov;100(5):470-479. doi: 10.1124/molpharm.121.000278. Epub 2021 Aug 15.


We compared monotherapies and combinations of therapies that regulate G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) with respect to their abilities to inhibit early stages of diabetic retinopathy (DR) in streptozotocin-diabetic mice. Metoprolol (MTP; 0.04-1.0 mg/kg b.wt./day), bromocriptine (BRM; 0.01-0.1 mg/kg b.wt./day), doxazosin (DOX; 0.01-1.0 mg/kg b.wt./day), or tamsulosin (TAM; 0.05-0.25 mg/kg b.wt./day) were injected individually daily for 2 months in dose-response studies to assess their effects on the diabetes-induced increases in retinal superoxide and leukocyte-mediated cytotoxicity against vascular endothelial cells, both of which abnormalities have been implicated in the development of DR. Each of the individual drugs inhibited the diabetes-induced increase in retinal superoxide at the higher concentrations tested, but the inhibition was lost at lower doses. To determine whether combination therapies had superior effects over individual drugs, we intentionally selected for each drug a low dose that had little or no effect on the diabetes-induced retinal superoxide for use separately or in combinations in 8-month studies of retinal function, vascular permeability, and capillary degeneration in diabetes. At the low doses used, combinations of the drugs generally were more effective than individual drugs, but the low-dose MTP alone totally inhibited diabetes-induced reduction in a vision task, BRM or DOX alone totally inhibited the vascular permeability defect, and DOX alone totally inhibited diabetes-induced degeneration of retinal capillaries. Although low-dose MTP, BRM, DOX, or TAM individually had beneficial effects on some endpoints, combination of the therapies better inhibited the spectrum of DR lesions evaluated. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: The pathogenesis of early stages of diabetic retinopathy remains incompletely understood, but multiple different cell types are believed to be involved in the pathogenic process. We have compared the effects of monotherapies to those of combinations of drugs that regulate GPCR signaling pathways with respect to their relative abilities to inhibit the development of early diabetic retinopathy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / pathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Adrenergic / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Retinal Vessels / drug effects
  • Retinal Vessels / metabolism
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Receptors, Adrenergic
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Receptors, Serotonin