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Human pericyte–endothelial cell interactions in co-culture models mimicking the diabetic retinal microvascular environment

  • Tarallo, Sonia1
  • Beltramo, Elena1
  • Berrone, Elena1
  • Porta, Massimo1
  • 1 University of Turin, Department of Internal Medicine, Corso Dogliotti 14, Turin, 10126, Italy , Turin (Italy)
Published Article
Acta Diabetologica
Springer Milan
Publication Date
Apr 19, 2012
Suppl 1
DOI: 10.1007/s00592-012-0390-5
Springer Nature


Pericytes regulate vascular tone, perfusion pressure and endothelial cell (EC) proliferation in capillaries. Thiamine and benfotiamine counteract high glucose-induced damage in vascular cells. We standardized two human retinal pericyte (HRP)/EC co-culture models to mimic the diabetic retinal microvascular environment. We aimed at evaluating the interactions between co-cultured HRP and EC in terms of proliferation/apoptosis and the possible protective role of thiamine and benfotiamine against high glucose-induced damage. EC and HRP were co-cultured in physiological glucose and stable or intermittent high glucose, with or without thiamine/benfotiamine. No-contact model: EC were plated on a porous membrane suspended into the medium and HRP on the bottom of the same well. Cell-to-cell contact model: EC and HRP were plated on the opposite sides of the same membrane. Proliferation (cell counts and DNA synthesis), apoptosis and tubule formation in Matrigel were assessed. In the no-contact model, stable high glucose reduced proliferation of co-cultured EC/HRP and EC alone and increased co-cultured EC/HRP apoptosis. In the contact model, both stable and intermittent high glucose reduced co-cultured EC/HRP proliferation and increased apoptosis. Stable high glucose had no effects on HRP in separate cultures. Both EC and HRP proliferated better when co-cultured. Thiamine and benfotiamine reversed high glucose-induced damage in all cases. HRP are sensitive to soluble factors released by EC when cultured in high glucose conditions, as suggested by conditioned media assays. In the Matrigel models, addition of thiamine and benfotiamine re-established the high glucose-damaged interactions between EC/HRP and stabilized microtubules.

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