Expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in the human retina and in nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy

Am J Pathol. 1998 Jun;152(6):1453-62.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)/vascular permeability factor is a likely angiogenic mediator in proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and its role is under scrutiny in the pathogenesis of the capillary leakage characteristic of background diabetic retinopathy. To examine whether the diabetic milieu induces or increases retinal VEGF expression in humans, we examined retinas from nondiabetic eye donors and donors with 9 +/- 5 years of diabetes and documented microangiopathy. To identify possible confounding effects of the postmortem period, we also studied the postmortem stability of the VEGF transcript and the expression of the VEGF protein in rat retinas. In both human and rat retina we detected by Northern analysis a 4.2-kb VEGF mRNA species and by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction the transcripts encoding VEGF165 (the most abundant), VEGF121, and VEGF189. By in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry VEGF mRNA and protein co-localized at the ganglion cell, inner nuclear, and outer plexiform layers and in the walls of the blood vessels (where mRNA was scarce). The protein was additionally detected in photoreceptors. The abundance and distribution of VEGF mRNA and protein were not altered in the diabetic retinas, indicating that the diabetic environment is not sufficient to increase retinal VEGF expression. The demonstration that VEGF is constitutively expressed in the adult retina and is localized to discrete neural cells and their processes proposes a role for the cytokine in retinal homeostasis and/or function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism*
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Lymphokines / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Lymphokines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors