Photoreceptor responses to light in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy

Shahriyar P. Majidi, Rithwick Rajagopal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Vision loss, among the most feared complications of diabetes, is primarily caused by diabetic retinopathy, a disease that manifests in well-recognized, characteristic microvascular lesions. The reasons for retinal susceptibility to damage in diabetes are unclear, especially considering that microvascular networks are found in all tissues. However, the unique metabolic demands of retinal neurons could account for their vulnerability in diabetes. Photoreceptors are the first neurons in the visual circuit and are also the most energy-demanding cells of the retina. Here, we review experimental and clinical evidence linking photoreceptors to the development of diabetic retinopathy. We then describe the influence of retinal illumination on photoreceptor metabolism, effects of light modulation on the severity of diabetic retinopathy, and recent clinical trials testing the treatment of diabetic retinopathy with interventions that impact photoreceptor metabolism. Finally, we introduce several possible mechanisms that could link photoreceptor responses to light and the development of retinal vascular disease in diabetes. Collectively, these concepts form the basis for a growing body of investigative efforts aimed at developing novel pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic tools that target photoreceptor physiology to treat a very common cause of blindness across the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE007
JournalVisual Neuroscience
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • light deprivation
  • metabolism
  • photoreceptor
  • phototransduction
  • visual cycle


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