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Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1999 Dec 10;118(1-2):135-45.

Tissue oxygen levels control astrocyte movement and differentiation in developing retina.

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NSW Retinal Dystrophy Research Centre, Department of Anatomy and Histology, University of Sydney F13, Sydney, Australia.


Astrocytes play a key role in the development of retinal vessels by detecting hypoxia in developing retina and secreting the hypoxia-induced angiogenic factor VEGF to induce vessel formation. The astrocytes which play this role are themselves spreading over the retina, just ahead of the growing vessels. To understand the mechanisms which keep astrocytes in this strategic 'just ahead' position we have studied the effects of hyperoxia and hypoxia on astrocyte differentiation and movement in situ in neonatal rat retina and in primary culture. Hyperoxia in situ inhibited the stellation of astrocytes, so that they persisted in a relatively unbranched form, which accumulated at the edge of their spreading population; hyperoxia permitted but did not accelerate migration. Conversely, hypoxia induced unstellated astrocytes to stellate within 6 h. If the hypoxia was abnormally severe, it caused the astrocytes to hyperstellate and slowed their spread. Astrocytes in primary culture did not change morphology or motility when challenged by hypoxia. When treated with medium conditioned by retina however, astrocytes became mobile and, if the medium was conditioned by hypoxic retina, became stellate. These results suggest that the oxygen released by retinal vessels maintains the mobility of astrocytes, via a diffusible factor released by other retinal cells. Conversely, naturally generated hypoxia of developing retina plays a triple role, inducing astrocytes to stellate, to end their migration and to produce VEGF, thereby inducing vessel formation. The induction of stellation is mediated by a diffusible factor released by other retinal cells. Thus hypoxia of the retina generated by neural maturation induces key events in both the differentiation of astrocytes and the formation of blood vessels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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