Molecular pathogenesis of retinal and choroidal vascular diseases

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There are two major types of ocular neovascularization that affect the retina, retinal neovascularization (NV) and subretinal or choroidal NV. Retinal NV occurs in a group of diseases referred to as ischemic retinopathies in which damage to retinal vessels results in retinal ischemia. Most prevalent of these are diabetic retinopathy and retinal vein occlusions. Subretinal and choroidal NV occur in diseases of the outer retina and Bruch's membrane, the most prevalent of which is age-related macular degeneration. Numerous studies in mouse models have helped to elucidate the molecular pathogenesis underlying retinal, subretinal, and choroidal NV. There is considerable overlap because the precipitating event in each is stabilization of hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) which leads to upregulation of several hypoxia-regulated gene products, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), angiopoietin 2, vascular endothelial-protein tyrosine phosphatase (VE-PTP), and several others. Stimulation of VEGF signaling and suppression of Tie2 by angiopoietin 2 and VE-PTP are critical for sprouting of retinal, subretinal, and choroidal NV, with perturbation of Bruch's membrane also needed for the latter. Additional HIF-1-regulated gene products cause further stimulation of the NV. It is difficult to model macular edema in animals and therefore proof-of-concept clinical trials were done and demonstrated that VEGF plays a central role and that suppression of Tie2 is also important. Neutralization of VEGF is currently the first line therapy for all of the above disease processes, but new treatments directed at some of the other molecular targets, particularly stabilization of Tie2, are likely to provide additional benefit for subretinal/choroidal NV and macular edema. In addition, the chronicity of these diseases as well as the implication of VEGF as a cause of retinal nonperfusion and progression of background diabetic retinopathy make sustained delivery approaches for VEGF antagonists a priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-81
Number of pages15
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
StatePublished - 2015


  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Angiogenesis
  • Angiopoietins
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor-1
  • Platelet-derived growth factor
  • TIE2
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor
  • Vascular endothelial-protein tyrosine phosphatase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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