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Pfaller, Anna M.; Kaplan, Lew; Carido, Madalena; Grassmann, Felix; Díaz-Lezama, Nundehui; Ghaseminejad, Farhad; Wunderlich, Kirsten A.; Glänzer, Sarah; Bludau, Oliver; Pannicke, Thomas; Weber, Bernhard H. F.; Koch, Susanne F.; Bonev, Boyan; Hauck, Stefanie M.; Grosche, Antje (2024): The glucocorticoid receptor as a master regulator of the Müller cell response to diabetic conditions in mice. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 21 (1). ISSN 1742-2094

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Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is considered a primarily microvascular complication of diabetes. Müller glia cells are at the centre of the retinal neurovascular unit and play a critical role in DR. We therefore investigated Müller cell-specific signalling pathways that are altered in DR to identify novel targets for gene therapy. Using a multi-omics approach on purified Müller cells from diabetic db/db mice, we found the mRNA and protein expression of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) to be significantly decreased, while its target gene cluster was down-regulated. Further, oPOSSUM TF analysis and ATAC- sequencing identified the GR as a master regulator of Müller cell response to diabetic conditions. Cortisol not only increased GR phosphorylation. It also induced changes in the expression of known GR target genes in retinal explants. Finally, retinal functionality was improved by AAV-mediated overexpression of GR in Müller cells. Our study demonstrates an important role of the glial GR in DR and implies that therapeutic approaches targeting this signalling pathway should be aimed at increasing GR expression rather than the addition of more ligand.

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