The vascular endothelium as a regulator of the ocular circulation: a new concept in ophthalmology?

Surv Ophthalmol. Sep-Oct 1994;39(2):123-32. doi: 10.1016/0039-6257(94)90157-0.


The endothelium influences local vascular tone by releasing endothelium-derived relaxing factors such as nitric oxide, prostacyclin and a putative hyperpolarizing factor. In isolated ophthalmic arteries and the perfused eye, all endothelial factors importantly contribute to vascular regulation. In larger ophthalmic vessels, this is due to their effects on vascular smooth muscle cells; in smaller vessels, pericytes can be influenced as well. Contracting factors formed include peptide endothelin-1 and cyclooxygenase products, such as thromboxane A2 and prostaglandin H2. In the peripheral circulation endothelial dysfunction occurs under pathological conditions, both in conduit arteries and the microcirculation. An imbalance of endothelium-derived relaxing and contracting factors could be important for the development of vascular ophthalmic complications like hypertension, diabetes, arteriolosclerosis and retinal ischemia. Endothelial dysfunction may also contribute to vasospastic events in retinal migraine and some forms of low tension glaucoma associated with Raynaud phenomenon and migraine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Endothelins / physiology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Eye / blood supply*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow


  • Endothelins
  • Nitric Oxide