Connective tissue growth factor regulates retinal neovascularization through p53 protein-dependent transactivation of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 gene

J Biol Chem. 2012 Nov 23;287(48):40570-85. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.386565. Epub 2012 Oct 9.


Background: The role of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) in pathological angiogenesis in the retina is unknown.

Results: CTGF/CCN2 stimulates retinal neovascularization through transactivation of p53 target genes such as matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2.

Conclusion: CTGF/CCN2 effects on abnormal vessel formation in the retina are mediated by p53 and MMP-2.

Significance: CTGF/CCN2 and its downstream effectors are potential targets in the development of new antiangiogenic treatments. Pathological angiogenesis in the retina is driven by dysregulation of hypoxia-driven stimuli that coordinate physiological vessel growth. How the various components of the neovascularization signaling network are integrated to yield pathological changes has not been defined. Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) is an inducible matricellular protein that plays a major role in fibroproliferative disorders. Here, we show that CTGF/CCN2 was dynamically expressed in the developing murine retinal vasculature and was abnormally increased and localized within neovascular tufts in the mouse eye with oxygen-induced retinopathy. Consistent with its propitious vascular localization, ectopic expression of the CTGF/CCN2 gene further accelerated neovascularization, whereas lentivirus-mediated loss-of-function or -expression of CTGF/CCN2 harnessed ischemia-induced neovessel outgrowth in oxygen-induced retinopathy mice. The neovascular effects of CTGF/CCN2 were mediated, at least in part, through increased expression and activity of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, which drives vascular remodeling through degradation of matrix and non matrix proteins, migration and invasion of endothelial cells, and formation of new vascular patterns. In cultured cells, CTGF/CCN2 activated the MMP-2 promoter through increased expression and tethering of the p53 transcription factor to a highly conserved p53-binding sequence within the MMP-2 promoter. Concordantly, the neovascular effects of CTGF/CCN2 were suppressed by p53 inhibition that culminated in reduced enrichment of the MMP-2 promoter with p53 and decreased MMP-2 gene expression. Our data identified new gene targets and downstream effectors of CTGF/CCN2 and provided the rational basis for targeting the p53 pathway to curtail the effects of CTGF/CCN2 on neovessel formation associated with ischemic retinopathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor / genetics
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxia / complications
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / genetics*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Retina / enzymology
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retinal Neovascularization / enzymology
  • Retinal Neovascularization / etiology
  • Retinal Neovascularization / genetics
  • Retinal Neovascularization / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2