Tofacitinib Ameliorates Retinal Vascular Leakage in a Murine Model of Diabetic Retinopathy with Type 2 Diabetes

Eimear M. Byrne, María Llorián-Salvador, Timothy J. Lyons, Mei Chen, Heping Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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We have previously reported that inhibition of the Janus kinase 1 (JAK1) signaling ameliorates IL-17A-mediated blood-retinal barrier (BRB) dysfunction. Higher levels of IL-17A have been observed in the blood and intraocular fluids in patients with diabetic retinopathy (DR), in particular those with diabetic macular oedema. This study aimed to understand whether JAK1 inhibition could prevent BRB dysfunction in db/db mice, a model of type 2 diabetes (T2D). An in vitro study showed that high glucose treatment disrupted the junctional distribution of claudin-5 in bEnd3 cells and ZO-1 in ARPE19 cells and that tofacitinib citrate treatment prevented high glucose-mediated tight junction disruption. Albumin leakage, accompanied by increased levels of the phosphorylated form of JAK1 (pJAK1), was observed in three-month-old db/db mice. Treatment of two-and-a-half-month-old db/db mice with tofacitinib citrate for two weeks significantly reduced retinal albumin leakage and reduced pJAK1 expression. pJAK1 expression was also detected in human DR retina. Our results suggest that JAK1 inhibition can ameliorate BRB dysfunction in T2D, and JAK1 inhibitors such as tofacitinib citrate may be re-purposed for the management of diabetic macular oedema.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11876
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number21
Early online date02 Nov 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 02 Nov 2021


  • JAK1
  • diabetes
  • retina
  • inflammation
  • macular edema
  • blood-retinal barrier


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