Müller Cell-Localized G-Protein-Coupled Receptor 81 (Hydroxycarboxylic Acid Receptor 1) Regulates Inner Retinal Vasculature via Norrin/Wnt Pathways

Am J Pathol. 2019 Sep;189(9):1878-1896. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2019.05.016. Epub 2019 Jun 18.


Ischemic retinopathies are characterized by a progressive microvascular degeneration followed by a postischemic aberrant neovascularization. To reinstate vascular supply and metabolic equilibrium to the ischemic tissue during ischemic retinopathies, a dysregulated production of growth factors and metabolic intermediates occurs, promoting retinal angiogenesis. Glycolysis-derived lactate, highly produced during ischemic conditions, has been associated with tumor angiogenesis and wound healing. Lactate exerts its biological effects via G-protein-coupled receptor 81 (GPR81) in several tissues; however, its physiological functions and mechanisms of action in the retina remain poorly understood. Herein, we show that GPR81, localized predominantly in Müller cells, governs deep vascular complex formation during development and in ischemic retinopathy. Lactate-stimulated GPR81 Müller cells produce numerous angiogenic factors, including Wnt ligands and particularly Norrin, which contributes significantly in triggering inner retinal blood vessel formation. Conversely, GPR81-null mice retina shows reduced inner vascular network formation associated with low levels of Norrin (and Wnt ligands). Lactate accumulation during ischemic retinopathy selectively activates GPR81-extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2-Norrin signaling to accelerate inner retinal vascularization in wild-type animals, but not in the retina of GPR81-null mice. Altogether, we reveal that lactate via GPR81-Norrin participates in inner vascular network development and in restoration of the vasculature in response to injury. These findings suggest a new potential therapeutic target to alleviate ischemic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ependymoglial Cells / metabolism
  • Ependymoglial Cells / pathology*
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ischemia / etiology
  • Ischemia / metabolism
  • Ischemia / pathology*
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Retinal Diseases / etiology
  • Retinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Retinal Diseases / pathology*
  • Retinal Neovascularization / etiology
  • Retinal Neovascularization / metabolism
  • Retinal Neovascularization / pathology*
  • Retinal Vessels / metabolism
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*


  • Eye Proteins
  • Hcar1 protein, mouse
  • Ndph protein, mouse
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Lactic Acid