Proteolytic Degradation and Inflammation Play Critical Roles in Polypoidal Choroidal Vasculopathy

Am J Pathol. 2017 Dec;187(12):2841-2857. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2017.08.025. Epub 2017 Sep 21.


Polypoidal choroidal vasculopathy (PCV) is a common subtype of wet age-related macular degeneration in Asian populations, whereas choroidal neovascularization is the typical subtype in Western populations. The cause of PCV is unknown. By comparing the phenotype of a PCV mouse model expressing protease high temperature requirement factor A1 (HTRA1) in retinal pigment epithelium with transgenic mice expressing the inactive HTRA1S328A, we showed that HTRA1-mediated degradation of elastin in choroidal vessels is critical for the development of PCV, which exhibited destructive extracellular matrix remodeling and vascular smooth muscle cell loss. Compared with weak PCV, severe PCV exhibited prominent immune complex deposition, complement activation, and infiltration of inflammatory cells, suggesting inflammation plays a key role in PCV progression. More important, we validated these findings in human PCV specimens. Intravitreal delivery of an HTRA1 inhibitor (DPMFKLboroV) was effective (36% lesion reduction; P = 0.009) in preventing PCV initiation but ineffective in treating existing lesions. Anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid was effective in preventing PCV progression but ineffective in preventing PCV initiation. These results suggest that PCV pathogenesis occurs through two stages. The initiation stage is mediated by proteolytic degradation of extracellular matrix proteins attributable to increased HTRA1 activity, whereas the progression stage is driven by inflammatory cascades. This study provides a basis for understanding the differences between PCV and choroidal neovascularization, and helps guide the design of effective therapies for PCV.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Choroidal Neovascularization / metabolism
  • Choroidal Neovascularization / pathology
  • Female
  • High-Temperature Requirement A Serine Peptidase 1 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Macular Degeneration / metabolism
  • Macular Degeneration / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteolysis
  • Wet Macular Degeneration / metabolism
  • Wet Macular Degeneration / pathology*


  • High-Temperature Requirement A Serine Peptidase 1
  • HTRA1 protein, human