Purpose: To better understand the histogenesis of ocular hemangioblastomas associated with von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease.
Methods: We found that co-expression of Epo and EpoR may mediate developmental stagnation and induce proliferation of hemangioblastoma. All lesions were frozen and/or fixed in formalin and embedded in paraffin. The specimens were sectioned and subjected to routine histology, immunohistochemistry and molecular analyses. Avidin-biotin-complex immunoperoxidase was used to evaluate the expression of erythropoietin (Epo), Epo receptor (EpoR), CD31, CD34, CD117, and CD133. Ocular hemangioblastoma cells were microdissected in order to determine expression of Epo and EpoR transcripts using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.
Results: Tumorlet-like cells were identified in retinal and optic nerve hemangioblastomas. Co-expression of Epo and EpoR at both protein and messenger levels was detected in many hemangioblastoma cells. In addition, ocular VHL lesions expressed several stem cell markers including CD133 to various degrees.
Conclusions: The data suggest that VHL disease-associated ocular hemangioblastomas are comprised of developmentally arrested stem cells including hemangioblasts, endothelial, and neuronal progenitor cells. We found that co-expression of Epo and EpoR may not only mediate developmental stagnation, but may also induce proliferation. Suppression of the growth of AC133/CD133 positive stem cells might be considered as one of the therapeutic targets for VHL-associated hemangioblastoma.