Br J Ophthalmol 89:1638-1642 doi:10.1136/bjo.2005.069591
  • Laboratory science - Extended reports

Gremlin gene expression in bovine retinal pericytes exposed to elevated glucose

  1. R Kane1,3,
  2. L Stevenson4,
  3. C Godson1,3,
  4. A W Stitt4,
  5. C O’Brien2,3
  1. 1School of Medicine and Medical Science University, College Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  3. 3Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, University College Dublin and the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre, Republic of Ireland
  4. 4Ophthalmology and Vision Science, Queen’s University Belfast, Institute of Clinical Science, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Colm O’Brien Institute of Ophthalmology, 60 Eccles Street, Dublin 7, Ireland;
  • Accepted 10 July 2005


Aim: To assess the influence of high extracellular glucose on the expression of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonist, gremlin, in cultured bovine retinal pericytes (BRPC).

Methods: BRPC were cultured under conditions of 5 mM and 30 mM d-glucose for 7 days and total RNA was isolated. Gremlin mRNA levels were correlated, by RT-PCR, with other genes implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy and the signalling pathways in high glucose induced gremlin expression were probed using physiological inhibitors. Gremlin expression was also examined in the retina of streptozotocin induced diabetic mice.

Results: High glucose stimulated a striking increase in BRPC gremlin mRNA levels in parallel with increases in mRNA for the growth factors vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) and changes in other genes including fibronectin and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1). High glucose triggered gremlin expression was modulated by anti-TGFβ antibody, by the uncoupler of oxidative phosphorylation, CCCP, and by inhibition of MAP-kinase (MAPK) activation. Striking gremlin expression was observed in the outer retina of diabetic mice and also at the level of the vascular wall.

Conclusions: Gremlin gene expression is induced in BRPC in response to elevated glucose and in the retina of the streptozotocin induced diabetic mouse. Its expression is modulated by hyperglycaemic induction of the MAPK, reactive oxygen species, and TGFβ pathways, all of which are reported to have a role in diabetic fibrotic disease. This implicates a role for gremlin in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy.