Using vitreous fluorophotometry and quantitative fluorescence microscopy the authors studied the permeability of the blood-retinal barrier (BRB) to fluorescein in control and in 8 days streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Vitreous fluorophotometry showed that fluorescein permeates BRB in control and in diabetic rats. However, in diabetic rats the permeability to fluorescein was significantly increased as compared to control rats. The vitreous penetration ratio (VPR) values for total and free fluorescein at 60 min, were higher for diabetic rats (231.2+/-12.9 min-1 for total fluorescein and 1299.24+/-58.0 min-1 for free fluorescein) than for control rats (95.5+/-3.5 min-1 for total fluorescein and 646.6+/-55. 0 min-1 for free fluorescein) (P<0.05). Quantitative confocal fluorescence microscopy confirmed these findings and identified the site of leakage across the BRB by comparing the relative importance of the fluorescein leakage across the outer and inner BRB. In control rats the fluorescence levels remained relatively low in the photoreceptor layer, next to the outer BRB but in the inner nuclear layer, next to the inner BRB reached values that were almost ten times higher. These results suggest that in retinas of control rats fluorescein penetrates predominantly through the inner BRB. In diabetic rats the fluorescence levels in the photoreceptor and in the inner nuclear layer were significantly increased as compared to the fluorescence levels in controls rats. Nevertheless, in the inner nuclear layer the fluorescence levels were also generally higher than the fluorescence levels at the photoreceptor layer. The rates of fluorescence levels between the inner nuclear layer and the photoreceptor layer were apparently 3:1, 60 min after the single intravenous injection of fluorescein. Also, the fluorescein penetration in the inner nuclear layer of the diabetic rats is higher than that observed in the inner nuclear layer of the control rats (P<0.001). These findings suggest that the permeability to fluorescein of both components of the BRB is increased 8 days after the induction of diabetes by streptozotocin and that the permeability of the retinal vasculature is preferentially affected.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.