Blue light is part of the natural light spectrum that emits high energy. Currently, people are frequently exposed to blue light from 3C devices, resulting in a growing incidence of retinopathy. The retinal vasculature is complex, and retinal vessels not only serve the metabolic needs of the retinal sublayers, but also maintain electrolyte homeostasis by forming the inner blood-retinal barrier (iBRB). The iBRB, which is primarily composed of endothelial cells, has well-developed tight junctions. However, with exposure to blue light, the risks of targeting retinal endothelial cells are currently unknown. We found that endothelial claudin-5 (CLDN5) was rapidly degraded under blue light, coinciding with the activation of a disintegrin and metalloprotease 17 (ADAM17), even at non-cytotoxic lighting. An apparently broken tight junction and a permeable paracellular cleft were observed. Mice exposed to blue light displayed iBRB leakage, conferring attenuation of the electroretinogram b-wave and oscillatory potentials. Both pharmacological and genetic inhibition of ADAM17 remarkably alleviated CLDN5 degradation induced by blue light. Under untreated condition, ADAM17 is sequestered by GNAZ (a circadian-responsive, retina-enriched inhibitory G protein), whereas ADAM17 escapes from GNAZ by blue light illuminance. GNAZ knockdown led to ADAM17 hyperactivation, CLDN5 downregulation, and paracellular permeability in vitro, and retinal damage mimicked blue light exposure in vivo. These data demonstrate that blue light exposure might impair the iBRB by accelerating CLDN5 degradation through the disturbance of the GNAZ-ADAM17 axis.
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