Diabetic retinopathy: aR1 as a novel therapeutic target

  • Smith, Sylvia B (PI)
  • Smith, Sylvia B. (PI)
  • Smith, Sylvia B. (PI)
  • Smith, Sylvia B. (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The goal of this project is to determine the pathogenesis of and neuroprotection against retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death in diabetic retinopathy. Many RGCs die within the first 2 years of disease onset. The RGC death is thought to be due to overstimulation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor that leads to excessive levels of intracellular calcium, which triggers the cell death cascade. Glutamate, which is elevated in the vitreous body and retina of diabetic patients, is the primary excitotoxin that activates the NMDA receptor. Homocysteine, which accumulates in the plasma of diabetic patients, induces RGC death when injected intravitreally. NMDA receptor activation requires co-activation of its glycine binding site and D-serine is the endogenous physiologic ligand for this site. Serine racemase is the enzyme responsible for the endogenous generation of D-serine. One of the goals of the project is to elucidate the molecular events involved in the extracellular accumulation of the MDA receptor agonists, glutamate and homocysteine, and the co-agonist D-serine. D-serine and serine racemase are expressed in retina, but their involvement in diabetes has not been investigated. AIM 1 will test the hypothesis that diabetes is associated with increased levels of D-serine and serine racemase leading to enhanced activation of the NMDA receptor by glutamate and homocysteine. AIM 2 will test the hypothesis that diabetes is associated with altered function of transport systems for glutamate (EAATs, x[c-]), homocysteine and D-serine (ATB0,+) and that their altered function may provide the molecular basis for the diabetes-associated increase in extracellular levels of glutamate, homocysteine and D-serine. Therapeutic intervention strategies targeted at blocking NMDA receptor stimulation could prevent RGC death and may delay other manifestations of diabetic retinopathy. Type 1 sigma receptor (sigmaR1) is a nonopiate, nonphencyclidine binding site that demonstrates robust neuroprotective properties including inhibition of ischemia-induced glutamate release and depressed neuronal responsivity to NMDA receptor stimulation. SigmaR1 is expressed abundantly in RGCs and continues to be expressed under hyperglycemic conditions. Agonists specific for sigmaR1 may have potential as therapeutic agents in providing neuroprotection in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Our preliminary data show that (+)-pentazocine, a sigmaR1 agonist, prevents RGC death in vitro induced by glutamate and homocysteine and in vivo induced by diabetes. AIM 3 will test the hypothesis that sigmaR1 agonists will be protective against RGC death characteristic of diabetic retinopathy.
Effective start/end date4/1/037/31/16


  • National Eye Institute


  • Medicine(all)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.