Purpose: Cataracts in patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) are a major cause of blindness in developed and developing countries. This study aims to examine whether the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) via the increased expression of glucose transporters (GLUTs) and the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) influences the cataract development in DM. Methods: Lens epithelial cells (LECs) were isolated during cataract surgery from patients without DM or with DM, but without diabetic retinopathy. In a rat model, fructose (10% fructose, 8 or 12 weeks) with or without dapagliflozin (1.2 mg/day, 2 weeks) treatment did induce DM, as verified by blood pressure and serum parameter measurements. Immunofluorescence stainings and immunoblottings were used to quantify the protein levels. Endogenous O2 - production in the LECs was determined in vivo with dihydroethidium stainings. Results: We investigated that GLUT levels in LECs differed significantly, thus leading to the direct enhancement of RAGE-associated superoxide generation in DM patients with cataracts. Superoxide production was significantly higher in LECs from rats with fructose-induced type 2 DM, whereas treatment with the sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor dapagliflozin prevented this effect in fructose-fed rats. Protein expression levels of the sodium/glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2), GLUT1, GLUT5, the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate reduced form (NADPH) oxidase subunit p67-phox, NOX2/4 and RAGE were upregulated in fructose-fed animals, whereas dapagliflozin treatment reversed these effects. Conclusions: In rats with fructose-induced DM, dapagliflozin downregulates RAGE-induced NADPH oxidase expression in LECs via the inactivation of GLUTs and a reduction in ROS generation. These novel findings suggest that the SGLT2 inhibitor dapagliflozin may be a candidate for the pharmacological prevention of cataracts in patients with DM.
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