Purpose: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent and specific angiogenic growth factor, in vitro and in vivo, that may be associated with the development of intraocular neovascularization. In the current study, the authors analyze the expression of VEGF in subfoveal fibrovascular membranes from patients with age-related macular degeneration.
Methods: Surgically removed subfoveal fibrovascular membranes from 18 eyes were analyzed for the expression of VEGF mRNA and protein using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, respectively.
Results: Most specimens expressed both VEGF mRNA and protein. The VEGF mRNA expression was particularly high in areas with a marked inflammatory response, in which the expression was concentrated to cells resembling fibroblasts and to surrounding inflammatory cells. VEGF protein expression was seen in fibrovascular parts of the membranes and was predominantly localized to the cytoplasm of fibroblastlike cells. In some of these membranes, strong VEGF protein immunoreactivity also was concentrated to extracellular matrix foci within the fibrovascular stroma.
Conclusions: Results indicate that VEGF may be of pathogenetic importance for the development of the choroidal neovascularization (age-related macular degeneration) and also may implicate a role of fibroblasts of presumable choroidal origin in this process.