TGF-beta is required for vascular barrier function, endothelial survival and homeostasis of the adult microvasculature

PLoS One. 2009;4(4):e5149. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005149. Epub 2009 Apr 2.


Pericyte-endothelial cell (EC) interactions are critical to both vascular development and vessel stability. We have previously shown that TGF-beta signaling between EC and mural cells participates in vessel stabilization in vitro. We therefore investigated the role of TGF-beta signaling in maintaining microvessel structure and function in the adult mouse retinal microvasculature. TGF-beta signaling was inhibited by systemic expression of soluble endoglin (sEng) and inhibition was demonstrated by reduced phospho-smad2 in the adult retina. Blockade of TGF-beta signaling led to increased vascular and neural cell apoptosis in the retina, which was associated with decreased retinal function, as measured by electroretinogram (ERG). Perfusion of the inner retinal vasculature was impaired and was accompanied by defective autoregulation and loss of capillary integrity. Fundus angiography and Evans blue permeability assay revealed a breakdown of the blood-retinal-barrier that was characterized by decreased association between the tight junction proteins zo-1 and occludin. Inhibition of TGF-beta signaling in cocultures of EC and 10T1/2 cells corroborated the in vivo findings, with impaired EC barrier function, dissociation of EC from 10T1/2 cells, and endothelial cell death, supporting the role of EC-mesenchymal interactions in TGF-beta signaling. These results implicate constitutive TGF-beta signaling in maintaining the integrity and function of the adult microvasculature and shed light on the potential role of TGF-beta signaling in vasoproliferative and vascular degenerative retinal diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Homeostasis*
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta