Aim: To determine the staining pattern of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) at different stages of diabetic retinopathy (including post-laser photocoagulation) and to compare staining in excised fibrovascular and fibrocellular (non-diabetic) preretinal membranes.
Methods: Immunohistochemical localisation of VEGF, using antibodies raised against VEGF165 and VEGF121,165,189, was carried out on specimens of normal human retina (n = 15), diabetic retinas ((a) with no overt retinopathy (n = 19), (b) with intraretinal vascular abnormalities but no proliferative retinopathy (n = 6), (c) with active proliferative retinopathy (n = 6), (d) with no residual proliferative retinopathy after photocoagulation therapy (n = 15)), excised diabetic fibrovascular membranes (n = 19), and non-diabetic fibrocellular membranes (n = 7). The degree and pattern of immunostaining was recorded.
Results: In general, VEGF was absent from the majority of normal retinas. VEGF staining was apparent in most diabetic tissues but the staining pattern was dependent on both the specificity of the antibody used and the category of tissue. Staining with the VEGF165 antibody was generally confined to endothelial cells adn perivascular regions while the VEGF121,165,189 antibody was also associated with extravascular components of the inner retina. Intensity of immunostaining of diabetic eyes was dependent on the severity of retinopathy being least in diabetics with no overt retinopathy and greatest in retinas with proliferative retinopathy. Interestingly, the intensity of immunostaining in diabetic retinas which had undergone laser surgery for proliferative retinopathy was reduced to basal levels. Moderate to intense immunostaining was observed in all fibrovascular and fibrocellular membranes examined.
Conclusions: This study supports a circumstantial role for VEGF in the pathogenesis of both the preclinical and proliferative stages of diabetic retinopathy.