Because oxidative stress has been strongly implicated in up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in ischemic retinopathy, we evaluated the role of NAD(P)H oxidase in causing VEGF overexpression and retinal neovascularization. Dihydroethidium imaging analyses showed increased superoxide formation in areas of retinal neovascularization associated with relative retinal hypoxia in a mouse model for oxygen-induced retinopathy. The effect of hypoxia in stimulating superoxide formation in retinal vascular endothelial cells was confirmed by in vitro chemiluminescence assays. The superoxide formation was blocked by specific inhibitors of NAD(P)H oxidase activity (apocynin, gp91ds-tat) indicating that NAD(P)H oxidase is a major source of superoxide formation. Western blot and immunolocalization analyses showed that retinal ischemia increased expression of the NAD(P)H oxidase catalytic subunit gp91phox, which localized primarily within vascular endothelial cells. Treatment of mice with apocynin blocked ischemia-induced increases in oxidative stress, normalized VEGF expression, and prevented retinal neovascularization. Apocynin and gp91ds-tat also blocked the action of hypoxia in causing increased VEGF expression in vitro, confirming the specific role of NAD(P)H oxidase in hypoxia-induced increases in VEGF expression. In conclusion, NAD(P)H oxidase activity is required for hypoxia-stimulated increases in VEGF expression and retinal neovascularization. Inhibition of NAD(P)H oxidase offers a new therapeutic target for the treatment of retinopathy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine