Comparison of choroidal and retinal endothelial cells: characteristics and response to VEGF isoforms and anti-VEGF treatments

Exp Eye Res. 2011 Nov;93(5):761-6. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2011.09.010. Epub 2011 Sep 28.


Neovascular eye diseases such as wet age-related macular degeneration and proliferative diabetic retinopathy are two of the most common causes of irreversible visual loss. Although mediated by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), the mechanisms of these diseases are not fully understood. Molecular inhibitors of VEGF including pegaptanib, ranibizumab and bevacizumab are used as treatments for these diseases. However, there have been very few direct comparisons between these agents, and as dose and treatment regimes differ their relative efficacies are hard to determine. In vitro comparisons tend to use cells from different sites or species, which show heterogeneity in their responses. The aim of this study was to compare the characteristics of primary cultures of isolated human choroidal endothelial cells (hCEC) and retinal endothelial cells (hREC), and their proliferation responses to stimulation with VEGF 121 and 165, and to compare the anti-proliferative effects of these three drugs. hCEC and hREC were positive for the cell markers VEGFR1, VEGFR2, CD31, CD34 and von Willebrand's factor (vWF), with greater expression of CD34 on the hREC compared to hCEC. Contrary to previous assumptions VEGF isoforms 121 and 165 were found to be equally potent in stimulating endothelial cell proliferation. However, hREC exhibited higher proliferation with either VEGF isoform compared to hCEC. The anti-VEGF treatments ranibizumab and bevacizumab were effective in decreasing proliferation of hCEC induced by the two VEGF isoforms, individually and in combination, with ranibizumab being moderately more effective, particularly in hREC. Pegaptanib was effective in controlling the proliferation of hCEC stimulated by VEGF 165, but was ineffective against the stimulatory effect of VEGF 121. There were found to be significant differences in microvascular endothelial cells from the retina and choroid, both in the expression of cell markers and their behaviour in response to growth factors and currently available anti-VEGF agents, highlighting the importance of targeting treatments to specific intraocular vascular beds and/or diseases.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / pharmacology
  • Antigens, CD34 / metabolism
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / pharmacology
  • Bevacizumab
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Choroid / blood supply*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / metabolism
  • Protein Isoforms / pharmacology
  • Ranibizumab
  • Retinal Vessels / cytology*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / pharmacology*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-1 / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / metabolism
  • von Willebrand Factor / metabolism


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antigens, CD34
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Biomarkers
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Protein Isoforms
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • von Willebrand Factor
  • pegaptanib
  • Bevacizumab
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-1
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2
  • Ranibizumab