Light-microscopic immunohistochemical staining for albumin has been used to localize sites of blood-retinal barrier (BRB) breakdown in ocular disorders, but the mechanism for BRB compromise cannot be resolved at this level. Using eyes up to 2 days post-mortem from normal patients or from patients with diabetic retinopathy, or other disorders known to cause BRB failure, electron-microscopic immunocytochemistry reveals focal breakdown of the inner BRB, comprised of the retinal vascular endothelium (RVE), which appears to be mediated by diffuse permeation of the RVE cells and by vesicular transport. Permeation of the retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells that comprise the outer BRB also occurs, but there is no evidence of opening of tight junctions between RVE or RPE in any of the disorders evaluated. Increased aldose reductase (AR) expression in the RVE and RPE cells of diabetics as well as in the perivascular retinal astrocytes, which interact with RVE cells to establish the inner BRB, suggests that AR activity and the subsequent intracellular accumulation of sorbitol in these cell types may impair the function of the BRB in diabetes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology