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THE ROLE OF GPR109A IN REGULATION OF RETINAL ANGIOGENESIS AND BLOOD-RETINAL BARRIER AS A POTENTIAL THERAPEUTIC TARGET IN DIABETIC RETINOPATHYAbdelrahman, Ammar; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Augusta University, 2020-12)Currently, treatments of diabetic retinopathy (DR) have limited therapeutic benefits and limited accessibility to the growing diabetic population at risk because of the high expenses and complicated procedures. Inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and microvascular damage are common features of diabetic complications including DR. GPR109A is the metabolite sensing receptor of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) the principal ketone body in humans. Our previous studies have shown the role of GPR109A expression in promoting anti-inflammatory response in retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells and the relevance of the receptor in DR. Expression of the GPR109A in microvascular endothelial cells (ECs) has been reported recently. However, the relevance of GPR109A expression and activation to retinal EC functions are yet to be studied. Our goal in this study was to identify the role of GPR109A expression and activation in barrier and angiogenic functions of retinal ECs in context of diabetic retinopathy. We used electrical cell impedance sensing (ECIS) technology to evaluate barrier functions in primary human retinal endothelial cells (HRECs) which constitute the inner BRB. Knocking down GPR109A in HRECs with siRNA decreased the transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) compared to scrambled siRNA. Treating HRECs with BHB increased their TEER and counteracted VEGF-induced barrier disruption through activation of GPR109A and increasing zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) expression. Treatment of STZ-diabetic mice with exogenous BHB for one month protected against the pathologic albumin leakage induced by diabetes and improved the visual acuity of this animal model of diabetes. Using the mouse model of oxygen induced retinopathy (OIR), we showed that Gpr109a-/- mice had slower vascular recovery from pathologic angiogenesis compared to age matched wild type mice. Moreover, physiologic revascularization of vaso-oblitrated retinas was impaired by loss of GPR109a and associated with dysregulated inflammatory and angiogenic signaling. Collectively, these data point to a role for GPR109A in the regulation of barrier and angiogenic mechanisms in retinal ECs and, promote the receptor as a potential druggable target for impacting these mechanisms in microvascular retinal diseases such as DR.