The degree of hyperglycemia correlates with the development of diabetic retinopathy. We investigated the effect of glucose on the expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 (72-kDa and 92-kDa type IV collagenases, respectively) by human retinal microvascular endothelial cells (HRECs). Cultured HRECs from nondiabetic and diabetic donors were exposed to 5 or 30 mmol/l glucose. Using gelatin zymography, conditioned medium (CM) from all cultures revealed a gelatinolytic band migrating at 65 kDa (representing the proform of MMP-2 that runs at 72 kDa under reducing conditions). This band was unchanged by glucose exposure or the disease state of the donors. CM from nondiabetic HREC cultures demonstrated an additional proteolytic activity migrating at 90 kDa when cells were exposed to 30 mmol/l glucose, but not when they were exposed to 5 mmol/l glucose. This same activity was seen in CM from HREC cultures of diabetic origin in the presence of both 5 and 30 mmol/l glucose. Western analysis confirmed the identity of the 65-kDa band as MMP-2. The anomalous activity at 90 kDa was identified as MMP-2 associated and co-migrating with a fibronectin fragment. Competition-based reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction revealed that nondiabetic and diabetic HRECs expressed constitutively mRNA for MMP-2, MMP-9, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1, TIMP-2, and fibronectin. After exposure to 5 or 30 mmol/l glucose, no changes were detected in mRNA levels in MMP-2 or MMP-9, their inhibitors TIMP-1 and TIMP-2, or fibronectin in either nondiabetic or diabetic HREC cultures. These results support the notion that modulation of MMP function by extracellular matrix components occurs in response to glucose and may be relevant to the development of diabetic retinopathy.

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