Pericyte insulin receptors modulate retinal vascular remodeling and endothelial angiopoietin signaling


  • N. Warmke
  • F. Platt
  • A.F. Bruns
  • C.H. Ozber
  • N.J. Haywood
  • Y. Abudushalamu
  • C. Slater
  • V. Palin
  • P. Sukumar
  • S.B. Wheatcroft
  • N.Y. Yuldasheva
  • M.T. Kearney
  • K.J. Griffin
  • R.M. Cubbon


  • Endocrinology


  • Endocrinology 162 (11): bqab182


  • Pericytes regulate vascular development, stability and quiescence; their dysfunction contributes to diabetic retinopathy. To explore the role of insulin receptors in pericyte biology, we created pericyte insulin receptor knockout mice (PIRKO) by crossing PDGFR β-Cre mice with insulin receptor (Insr) floxed mice. Their neonatal retinal vasculature exhibited peri-venous hypervascularity with venular dilatation, plus increased angiogenic sprouting in superficial and deep layers. Pericyte coverage of capillaries was unaltered in peri-venous and peri-arterial plexi and no differences in vascular regression or endothelial proliferation were apparent. Isolated brain pericytes from PIRKO had decreased angiopoietin-1 mRNA, whereas retinal and lung angiopoietin-2 mRNA was increased. Endothelial phospho-Tie2 staining was diminished and FoxO1 was more frequently nuclear localized in the peri-venous plexus of PIRKO, in keeping with reduced angiopoietin-Tie2 signaling. Silencing of Insr in human brain pericytes led to reduced insulin-stimulated angiopoietin-1 secretion, and conditioned media from these cells was less able to induce Tie2 phosphorylation in human endothelial cells. Hence, insulin signaling in pericytes promotes angiopoietin-1 secretion and endothelial Tie2 signaling and perturbation of this leads to excessive vascular sprouting and venous plexus abnormalities. This phenotype mimics elements of diabetic retinopathy, and future work should evaluate pericyte insulin signaling in this disease.