Imbalances in Mobilization and Activation of Pro-Inflammatory and Vascular Reparative Bone Marrow-Derived Cells in Diabetic Retinopathy

Harshini Chakravarthy, Eleni Beli, Svetlana Navitskaya, Sandra O'Reilly, Qi Wang, Nermin Kady, Chao Huang, Maria B Grant, Julia V Busik

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Diabetic retinopathy is a sight-threatening complication of diabetes, affecting 65% of patients after 10 years of the disease. Diabetic metabolic insult leads to chronic low-grade inflammation, retinal endothelial cell loss and inadequate vascular repair. This is partly due to bone marrow (BM) pathology leading to increased activity of BM-derived pro-inflammatory monocytes and impaired function of BM-derived reparative circulating angiogenic cells (CACs). We propose that diabetes has a significant long-term effect on the nature and proportion of BM-derived cells that circulate in the blood, localize to the retina and home back to their BM niche. Using a streptozotocin mouse model of diabetic retinopathy with GFP BM-transplantation, we have demonstrated that BM-derived circulating pro-inflammatory monocytes are increased in diabetes while reparative CACs are trapped in the BM and spleen, with impaired release into circulation. Diabetes also alters activation of splenocytes and BM-derived dendritic cells in response to LPS stimulation. A majority of the BM-derived GFP cells that migrate to the retina express microglial markers, while others express endothelial, pericyte and Müller cell markers. Diabetes significantly increases infiltration of BM-derived microglia in an activated state, while reducing infiltration of BM-derived endothelial progenitor cells in the retina. Further, control CACs injected into the vitreous are very efficient at migrating back to their BM niche, whereas diabetic CACs have lost this ability, indicating that the in vivo homing efficiency of diabetic CACs is dramatically decreased. Moreover, diabetes causes a significant reduction in expression of specific integrins regulating CAC migration. Collectively, these findings indicate that BM pathology in diabetes could play a role in both increased pro-inflammatory state and inadequate vascular repair contributing to diabetic retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0146829
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells/cytology
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Cell Count
  • Chimera
  • Dendritic Cells/pathology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy/immunology
  • Endothelial Cells/pathology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins/metabolism
  • Inflammation/pathology
  • Lipopolysaccharides/pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia/pathology
  • Microvessels/drug effects
  • Monocytes/pathology
  • Retina/pathology
  • Spleen/pathology


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