Ion channels and myogenic activity in retinal arterioles

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Retinal pressure autoregulation is an important mechanism that protects the retina by stabilizing retinal blood flow during changes in arterial or intraocular pressure. Similar to other vascular beds, retinal pressure autoregulation is thought to be mediated largely through the myogenic response of small arteries and arterioles which constrict when transmural pressure increases or dilate when it decreases. Over recent years, we and others have investigated the signaling pathways underlying the myogenic response in retinal arterioles, with particular emphasis on the involvement of different ion channels expressed in the smooth muscle layer of these vessels. Here, we review and extend previous work on the expression and spatial distribution of the plasma membrane and sarcoplasmic reticulum ion channels present in retinal vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and discuss their contribution to pressure-induced myogenic tone in retinal arterioles. This includes new data demonstrating that several key players and modulators of the myogenic response show distinctively heterogeneous expression along the length of the retinal arteriolar network, suggesting differences in myogenic signaling between larger and smaller pre-capillary arterioles. Our immunohistochemical investigations have also highlighted the presence of actin-containing microstructures called myobridges that connect the retinal VSMCs to one another. Although further work is still needed, studies to date investigating myogenic mechanisms in the retina have contributed to a better understanding of how blood flow is regulated in this tissue. They also provide a basis to direct future research into retinal diseases where blood flow changes contribute to the pathology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages44
JournalCurrent Topics in Membranes
Early online date26 Feb 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 26 Feb 2020


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