Retinal and choroidal neovascularization (NV) and vascular leakage contribute to visual impairment in several common ocular diseases. The angiopoietin/TIE2 (ANG/TIE2) pathway maintains vascular integrity, and negative regulators of this pathway are potential therapeutic targets for these diseases. Here, we demonstrated that vascular endothelial-protein tyrosine phosphatase (VE-PTP), which negatively regulates TIE2 activation, is upregulated in hypoxic vascular endothelial cells, particularly in retinal NV. Intraocular injection of an anti-VE-PTP antibody previously shown to activate TIE2 suppressed ocular NV. Furthermore, a small-molecule inhibitor of VE-PTP catalytic activity (AKB-9778) activated TIE2, enhanced ANG1-induced TIE2 activation, and stimulated phosphorylation of signaling molecules in the TIE2 pathway, including AKT, eNOS, and ERK. In mouse models of neovascular age-related macular degeneration, AKB-9778 induced phosphorylation of TIE2 and strongly suppressed NV. Ischemia-induced retinal NV, which is relevant to diabetic retinopathy, was accentuated by the induction of ANG2 but inhibited by AKB-9778, even in the presence of high levels of ANG2. AKB-9778 also blocked VEGF-induced leakage from dermal and retinal vessels and prevented exudative retinal detachments in double-transgenic mice with high expression of VEGF in photoreceptors. These data support targeting VE-PTP to stabilize retinal and choroidal blood vessels and suggest that this strategy has potential for patients with a wide variety of retinal and choroidal vascular diseases.
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