Neovascular diseases of the eye are the most common causes of blindness worldwide. The mechanisms underlying pathological neovascularization in the retina remain incompletely understood. PGC-1α is a transcriptional coactivator that plays a central role in the regulation of cellular metabolism. In skeletal muscle, PGC-1α induces VEGFA expression and powerfully promotes angiogenesis, suggesting a similar role in other tissues. This study investigates the role of PGC-1α during normal and pathological vascularization in the retina. We show that PGC-1α induces the expression of VEGFA in numerous retinal cells, and that PGC-1α expression is strongly induced during postnatal retinal development, coincident with VEGFA expression and angiogenesis. PGC-1α(-/-) mice have a significant reduction of early retinal vascular outgrowth, and reduced density of capillaries and number of main arteries and veins as adults. In the oxygen-induced retinopathy model of retinopathy of prematurity, PGC-1α expression is dramatically induced in the inner nuclear layer of the retina, suggesting that PGC-1α drives pathological neovascularization. In support of this, PGC-1α(-/-) mice subjected to oxygen-induced retinopathy had decreased expression of VEGFA and were protected against pathological neovascularization. These results demonstrate that PGC-1α regulates VEGFA in the retina and is required for normal vessel development and for pathological neovascularization. The data highlight PGC-1α as a novel target in the treatment of neovascular diseases of the eye.
Copyright © 2013 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.