Blood-retinal barrier (BRB) breakdown and related vascular changes are implicated in several ocular diseases. The molecules and mechanisms regulating BRB integrity and pathophysiology are not fully elucidated. Caveolin-1 (Cav-1) ablation results in loss of caveolae and microvascular pathologies, but the role of Cav-1 in the retina is largely unknown. We examined BRB integrity and vasculature in Cav-1 knockout mice and found a significant increase in BRB permeability, compared with wild-type controls, with branch veins being frequent sites of breakdown. Vascular hyperpermeability occurred without apparent alteration in junctional proteins. Such hyperpermeability was not rescued by inhibiting eNOS activity. Veins of Cav-1 knockout retinas exhibited additional pathological features, including i) eNOS-independent enlargement, ii) altered expression of mural cell markers (eg, down-regulation of NG2 and up-regulation of αSMA), and iii) dramatic alterations in mural cell phenotype near the optic nerve head. We observed a significant NO-dependent increase in retinal artery diameter in Cav-1 knockout mice, suggesting that Cav-1 plays a role in autoregulation of resistance vessels in the retina. These findings implicate Cav-1 in maintaining BRB integrity in retinal vasculature and suggest a previously undefined role in the retinal venous system and associated mural cells. Our results are relevant to clinically significant retinal disorders with vascular pathologies, including diabetic retinopathy, uveoretinitis, and primary open-angle glaucoma.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine