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Prog Retin Eye Res. 2012 May;31(3):243-57. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Norrin: molecular and functional properties of an angiogenic and neuroprotective growth factor.

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1
Institute of Human Anatomy and Embryology, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstr. 31, D-93053 Regensburg, Germany.

Abstract

Norrin is a secreted signaling molecule with structural and functional characteristics of an autocrine and/or paracrine acting growth factor. In the eye, Norrin is constitutively expressed in Müller cells. Norrin specifically binds to Frizzled-4 receptors and activates the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway that is profoundly enhanced when Tspan12 is present at the Norrin/Frizzled-4 receptor complex. In the absence of Norrin or Frizzled-4, intraretinal capillaries are not formed during developmental angiogenesis. As a result there is considerable evidence that Norrin and Frizzled-4 are part of an essential signaling system that controls the formation of the retinal vasculature during eye development. Intriguingly, Norrin promotes vessel regrowth and induces the formation of intraretinal capillaries following oxygen-induced retinopathy in mice, an animal model of retinopathy of prematurity. Moreover, Norrin has pronounced neuroprotective properties on retinal ganglion cells (RGC) with the distinct potential to decrease the damaging effects of excitotoxic NMDA-induced RGC injury. The neuroprotective effects of Norrin similarly involve an activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling and the subsequent induction of neuroprotective growth factor synthesis in Müller cells, such as that of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) or ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF). Overall, Norrin and the molecules involved in its signaling pathway appear to be promising targets to develop strategies that induce intraretinal vessel formation in patients suffering from ischemic retinopathies, or that increase RGC survival in glaucoma.

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