Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



PLoS One








BACKGROUND: White blood cells have been shown in animal studies to play a central role in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. Lymphoblastoid cells are immortalized EBV-transformed primary B-cell leukocytes that have been extensively used as a model for conditions in which white blood cells play a primary role. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether lymphoblastoid cell lines, by retaining many of the key features of primary leukocytes, can be induced with glucose to demonstrate relevant biological responses to those found in diabetic retinopathy.

METHODS: Lymphoblastoid cell lines were obtained from twenty-three human subjects. Differences between high and standard glucose conditions were assessed for expression, endothelial adhesion, and reactive oxygen species.

RESULTS: Collectively, stimulation of the lymphoblastoid cell lines with high glucose demonstrated corresponding changes on molecular, cellular and functional levels. Lymphoblastoid cell lines up-regulated expression of a panel of genes associated with the leukocyte-mediated inflammation found in diabetic retinopathy that include: a cytokine (IL-1B fold change = 2.11, p-value = 0.02), an enzyme (PKCB fold change = 2.30, p-value = 0.01), transcription factors (NFKB-p50 fold change = 2.05, p-value = 0.01), (NFKB-p65 fold change = 2.82, p-value = 0.003), and an adhesion molecule (CD18 fold change = 2.59, 0.02). Protein expression of CD18 was also increased (p-value = 2.14x10-5). The lymphoblastoid cell lines demonstrated increased adhesiveness to endothelial cells (p = 1.28x10-5). Reactive oxygen species were increased (p = 2.56x10-6). Significant inter-individual variation among the lymphoblastoid cell lines in these responses was evident (F = 18.70, p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Exposure of lymphoblastoid cell lines derived from different human subjects to high glucose demonstrated differential and heterogeneous gene expression, adhesion, and cellular effects that recapitulated features found in the diabetic state. Lymphoblastoid cells may represent a useful tool to guide an individualized understanding of the development and potential treatment of diabetic complications like retinopathy.


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