Background and Purpose: Endothelial cell-mediated vasodilatation of cerebral arterioles is impaired in individuals with Type 1 diabetes (T1D). This defect compromises haemodynamics and can lead to hypoxia, microbleeds, inflammation and exaggerated ischaemia-reperfusion injuries. The molecular causes for dysregulation of cerebral microvascular endothelial cells (cECs) in T1D remains poorly defined. This study tests the hypothesis that cECs dysregulation in T1D is triggered by increased generation of the mitochondrial toxin, methylglyoxal, by smooth muscle cells in cerebral arterioles (cSMCs). Experimental Approach: Endothelial cell-mediated vasodilatation, vascular transcytosis inflammation, hypoxia and ischaemia-reperfusion injury were assessed in brains of male Sprague-Dawley rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes and compared with those in diabetic rats with increased expression of methylglyoxal-degrading enzyme glyoxalase-I (Glo-I) in cSMCs. Key Results: After 7–8 weeks of T1D, endothelial cell-mediated vasodilatation of cerebral arterioles was impaired. Microvascular leakage, gliosis, macrophage/neutrophil infiltration, NF-κB activity and TNF-α levels were increased, and density of perfused microvessels was reduced. Transient occlusion of a mid-cerebral artery exacerbated ischaemia-reperfusion injury. In cSMCs, Glo-I protein was decreased, and the methylglyoxal-synthesizing enzyme, vascular adhesion protein 1 (VAP-1) and methylglyoxal were increased. Restoring Glo-I protein in cSMCs of diabetic rats to control levels via gene transfer, blunted VAP-1 and methylglyoxal increases, cECs dysfunction, microvascular leakage, inflammation, ischaemia-reperfusion injury and increased microvessel perfusion. Conclusions and Implications: Methylglyoxal generated by cSMCs induced cECs dysfunction, inflammation, hypoxia and exaggerated ischaemia-reperfusion injury in diabetic rats. Lowering methylglyoxal produced by cSMCs may be a viable therapeutic strategy to preserve cECs function and blunt deleterious downstream consequences in T1D.
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