Expression and role of VEGF--a in the ciliary body

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Nov 7;53(12):7520-7. doi: 10.1167/iovs.12-10098.


Purpose: The role of VEGF-A in the normal ciliary body is largely unexplored. The ciliary body is similar in many respects to the choroid plexus of the brain, and we demonstrated previously the importance of VEGF-A in maintenance of choroid plexus vasculature and ependymal cells. Therefore, the role of VEGF-A in ciliary body homeostasis was explored.

Methods: Swiss-Webster mice (VEGF-LacZ) were used to determine VEGF-A expression during ciliary body development and in the adult. VEGFR2 expression was determined in adult wild type C56BL/6J mice. Systemic VEGF-A neutralization in vivo was achieved with adenovirus-mediated overexpression of soluble VEGFR1 (sFlt1). Following VEGF-A neutralization, the ciliary epithelium was analyzed by light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The effect of VEGF-A blockade on ciliary body function also was assessed by measuring intraocular pressure.

Results: VEGF-A expression was detected at embryonic day 18.5 (E18.5), the onset of ciliary process formation. In the adult ciliary body, VEGF-A was expressed by the pigmented epithelium, whereas VEGFR2 was localized primarily to the capillary endothelium and nonpigmented epithelium. Systemic VEGF-A neutralization led to a thinning of the nonpigmented epithelium, vacuolization of the pigmented epithelium, loss of capillary fenestrations, and thrombosis. These changes were associated with impaired ciliary body function, as evidenced by decreased intraocular pressure in sFlt1-overexpressing animals (15.31 ± 2.06 mm Hg) relative to controls (18.69 ± 1.49 mm Hg).

Conclusions: VEGF-A has an important role in ciliary body homeostasis. Potential for undesired off-target effects should be considered with the chronic use of anti-VEGF-A therapies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciliary Body / embryology
  • Ciliary Body / growth & development
  • Ciliary Body / metabolism*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning Transmission
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / biosynthesis*


  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A