The blood retinal barrier (BRB) closely regulates the retinal microenvironment. Its compromise leads to the accumulation of retinal fluid containing potentially harmful plasma components. While eyes with non-exudative age-related macular degeneration (AMD) were previously felt to have an intact BRB, we propose that the BRB in non-exudative AMD eyes may be subclinically compromised, allowing entry of retina-toxic plasma proteins. We test this hypothesis by measuring retinal levels of abundant plasma proteins that should not cross the intact BRB. Two cohorts of frozen, post mortem neurosensory retinas were studied by Western analysis. One cohort from Alabama had 4 normal controls and 4 eyes with various forms of AMD. Another cohort from Minnesota had 5 intermediate AMD eyes and 5 normals. Both cohorts were age/post mortem interval (PMI) matched. The non-exudative AMD retinas in the Alabama cohort had significantly higher levels of albumin and complement component 9 (C9) than normal controls. The positive control exudative AMD donor retina had higher levels of all but one serum protein. In both macular and peripheral neurosensory retina samples, intermediate AMD retinas in the Minnesota cohort had significantly higher levels of albumin, fibrinogen, IgG, and C9 than controls. Our results suggest that there may be moderate subclinical BRB leakage in non-exudative AMD. Potentially harmful plasma components including complement or iron could enter the neurosensory retina in AMD patients prior to advanced disease. Thus, therapies aiming to stabilize the BRB might have a role in the management of non-exudative AMD.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded in the lab of JLD by: NIH/NEI EY015240 , Research to Prevent Blindness Medical Student Research Award and unrestricted funds, the Jeffrey W. Berger, MD, PhD Foundation, the F. M. Kirby Foundation , a gift in memory of Lee F. Mauger, MD, and the Paul and Evanina Bell Mackall Foundation Trust . Funding for DAF : NIH/NEI EY026012 , Helen Lindsay Foundation , Larson Endowed Vision Research Chair , and an Anonymous Donor for AMD Research . All funding sources are based in the USA.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Blood retinal barrier (BRB)
- Complement factor 9 (C9)