Long term high glucose exposure induces premature senescence in retinal endothelial cells

Pietro Maria Bertelli, Edoardo Pedrini, David Hughes, Shannon McDonnell, Varun Pathak, Elisa Peixoto, Jasenka Guduric-Fuchs, Alan W. Stitt, Reinhold J. Medina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: Features of cellular senescence have been described in diabetic retinal vasculature. The aim of this study was to investigate how the high glucose microenvironment impacts on the senescence program of retinal endothelial cells.

Methods: Human retinal microvascular endothelial cells were cultured under control and high glucose conditions of 5 mM and 25 mM D-glucose, respectively. Isomeric l-glucose was used as the osmotic control. Cells were counted using CASY technology until they reached their Hayflick limit. Senescence-associated β-Galactosidase was used to identify senescent cells. Endothelial cell functionality was evaluated by the clonogenic, 3D tube formation, and barrier formation assays. Cell metabolism was characterized using the Seahorse Bioanalyzer. Gene expression analysis was performed by bulk RNA sequencing. Retinal tissues from db/db and db/+ mice were evaluated for the presence of senescent cells. Publicly available scRNA-sequencing data for retinas from Akimba and control mice was used for gene set enrichment analysis.

Results: Long term exposure to 25 mM D-Glucose accelerated the establishment of cellular senescence in human retinal endothelial cells when compared to 5 mM D-glucose and osmotic controls. This was shown from 4 weeks, by a significant slower growth, higher percentages of cells positive for senescence-associated β-galactosidase, an increase in cell size, and lower expression of pRb and HMGB2. These senescence features were associated with decreased clonogenic capacity, diminished tubulogenicity, and impaired barrier function. Long term high glucose-cultured cells exhibited diminished glycolysis, with lower protein expression of GLUT1, GLUT3, and PFKFB3. Transcriptomic analysis, after 4 weeks of culture, identified downregulation of ALDOC, PFKL, and TPI1, in cells cultured with 25 mM D-glucose when compared to controls. The retina from db/db mice showed a significant increase in acellular capillaries associated with a significant decrease in vascular density in the intermediate and deep retinal plexuses, when compared to db/+ mice. Senescent endothelial cells within the db/db retinal vasculature were identified by senescence-associated β-galactosidase staining. Analysis of single cell transcriptomics data for the Akimba mouse retina highlighted an enrichment of senescence and senescence-associated secretory phenotype gene signatures when compared to control mice.

Conclusion: A diabetic-like microenvironment of 25 mM D-glucose was sufficient to accelerate the establishment of cellular senescence in human retinal microvascular endothelial cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article number929118
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2022


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