Objective: Retinal angioma frequently occurs in von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease. However, VHL gene alterations have not been documented in retinal angiomas.
Methods: Using tissue microdissection and polymerase chain reaction amplification, we have analyzed 7 retinal angiomas associated with VHL disease for loss of heterozygosity of the VHL gene. In addition, vascular endothelial growth factor expression was evaluated in these tumors by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization.
Results: All 6 informative retinal angiomas showed loss of heterozygosity of the VHL gene. Loss of heterozygosity was detected in vacuolated "stromal" cells, but not in vascular cells or reactive glial tissue. Vascular endothelial growth factor protein and messenger RNA were also present in vacuolated "stromal" cells.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that vacuolated "stromal" cells represent the true neoplastic component in retinal angioma. These cells express vascular endothelial growth factor and therefore may be responsible for abundant neovascularization of retinal angioma.