Age-related focal loss of contractile vascular smooth muscle cells in retinal arterioles is accelerated by caveolin-1 deficiency

Alaina M. Reagan, Xiaowu Gu, Sijalu Paudel, Nicole M. Ashpole, Michelle Zalles, William E. Sonntag, Zoltan Ungvari, Anna Csiszar, Laura Otalora, Willard M. Freeman, Michael B. Stout, Michael H. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Cerebral microcirculation is critical for the preservation of brain health, and vascular impairment is associated with age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Because the retina is a component of the central nervous system, cellular changes that occur in the aging retina are likely relevant to the aging brain, and the retina provides the advantage that the entire vascular bed is visible, en face. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that normal, healthy aging alters the contractile vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) coverage of retinal arterioles. We found that aging results in a significant reduction of contractile VSMCs in focal patches along arterioles. Focal loss of contractile VSMCs occurs at a younger age in mice deficient in the senescence-associated protein, caveolin-1. Age-related contractile VSMC loss is not exacerbated by genetic depletion of insulin-like growth factor-1. The patchy loss of contractile VSMCs provides a cellular explanation for previous clinical studies showing focal microirregularities in retinal arteriolar responsiveness in healthy aged human subjects and is likely to contribute to age-related retinal vascular complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Alpha smooth muscle actin
  • Caveolin-1
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1
  • Retina
  • Vasculature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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