Disorders of retinal vascular growth and function are responsible for vision loss in a variety of diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, retinopathy of prematurity and retinal artery or vein occlusion. Over the past decade, a new signaling pathway that controls retinal vascular development has emerged from the study of inherited disorders - in both humans and mice - that are characterized by retinal hypovascularization. This pathway utilizes a glial-derived extracellular ligand, Norrin, that acts on a transmembrane receptor, Frizzled4, a coreceptor, Lrp5, and an auxiliary membrane protein, Tspan12, on the surface of developing endothelial cells. The resulting signal controls a transcriptional program that regulates endothelial growth and maturation. It will be of great interest to determine whether modulating this pathway could represent a therapeutic approach to human retinal vascular disease.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.