PURPOSE. To analyze the role of VEGF and its receptors, VEGFR2/Flk1 and VEGFR1/Flt1, on retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) in a murine model of inherited retinal degeneration (rd1 mice). METHODS. After proliferating RPCs in the retina of rd1 mice were labeled with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), expressions of VEGFR2/Flk1 and VEGFR1/Flt1 were immunohistochemically analyzed. To examine its effect on the proliferation of BrdU-positive RPCs in rd1 mice, VEGF was administered into retinal culture medium with or without blocking agents against VEGFR2/Flk1 or VEGFR1/Flt1 in vitro or injected into vitreous cavity in vivo. RESULTS. BrdU-labeled RPCs in rd1 mice expressed VEGFR2/Flk1 but not VEGFR1/Flt1. These cells later expressed retinal neuronal markers such as Pax6 and rhodopsin. Exposure of the retinas from postnatal day (P) 9 rd1 mice to VEGF increased the number of proliferating RPCs by 61% in vitro. This effect was blocked by concomitant administration of VEGFR2/Flk1 kinase inhibitor. In vivo, a single intravitreal injection of VEGF in rd1 mice at P9 increased by 138% the number of RPCs and cells that developed from RPCs in the peripheral retina at P18. CONCLUSIONS. VEGF stimulates the proliferation of RPCs through VEGFR2/Flk1 in rd1 mice. The observed proliferation of RPCs that have the potential to differentiate into retinal neurons may enhance the regeneration of the degenerating retina.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience