Obesity-induced metabolic disturbance drives oxidative stress and complement activation in the retinal environment

Riccardo Natoli, Nilisha Fernando, Tess Dahlenburg, Haihan Jiao, Riemke Aggio-Bruce, Nigel L. Barnett, Juan Manuel Chao De La Barca, Guillaume Tcherkez, Pascal Reynier, Johnny Fang, Joshua A. Chu-Tan, Krisztina Valter, Jan Provis, Matt Rutar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Systemic increases in reactive oxygen species, and their association with inflammation, have been proposed as an underlying mechanism linking obesity and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Studies have found increased levels of oxidative stress biomarkers and inflammatory cytokines in obese individuals; however, the correlation between obesity and retinal inflammation has yet to be assessed. We used the leptin-deficient (ob/ob) mouse to further our understanding of the contribution of obesity to retinal oxidative stress and inflammation. Methods: Retinas from ob/ob mice were compared to age-matched wild-type controls for retinal function (electroretinography) and gene expression analysis of retinal stress (Gfap), oxidative stress (Gpx3 and Hmox1), and complement activation (C3, C2, Cfb, and Cfh). Oxidative stress was further quantified using a reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species (ROS and RNS) assay. Retinal microglia and macrophage migration to the outer retina and complement activation were determined using immunohistochemistry for IBA1 and C3, respectively. Retinas and sera were used for metabolomic analysis using QTRAP mass spectrometry. Results: Retinal function was reduced in ob/ob mice, which correlated to changes in markers of retinal stress, oxidative stress, and inflammation. An increase in C3-expressing microglia and macrophages was detected in the outer retinas of the ob/ob mice, while gene expression studies showed increases in the complement activators (C2 and Cfb) and a decrease in a complement regulator (Cfh). The expression of several metabolites were altered in the ob/ob mice compared to the controls, with changes in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) detected. Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that oxidative stress, inflammation, complement activation, and lipid metabolites in the retinal environment are linked with obesity in ob/ob animals. Understanding the interplay between these components in the retina in obesity will help inform risk factor analysis for acquired retinal degenerations, including AMD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-217
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Vision
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


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