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Am J Pathol. 2013 Jan;182(1):255-65. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2012.09.003. Epub 2012 Nov 7.

PGC-1α regulates normal and pathological angiogenesis in the retina.

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Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.


Neovascular diseases of the eye are the most common causes of blindness worldwide. The mechanisms underlying pathological neovascularization in the retina remain incompletely understood. PGC-1α is a transcriptional coactivator that plays a central role in the regulation of cellular metabolism. In skeletal muscle, PGC-1α induces VEGFA expression and powerfully promotes angiogenesis, suggesting a similar role in other tissues. This study investigates the role of PGC-1α during normal and pathological vascularization in the retina. We show that PGC-1α induces the expression of VEGFA in numerous retinal cells, and that PGC-1α expression is strongly induced during postnatal retinal development, coincident with VEGFA expression and angiogenesis. PGC-1α(-/-) mice have a significant reduction of early retinal vascular outgrowth, and reduced density of capillaries and number of main arteries and veins as adults. In the oxygen-induced retinopathy model of retinopathy of prematurity, PGC-1α expression is dramatically induced in the inner nuclear layer of the retina, suggesting that PGC-1α drives pathological neovascularization. In support of this, PGC-1α(-/-) mice subjected to oxygen-induced retinopathy had decreased expression of VEGFA and were protected against pathological neovascularization. These results demonstrate that PGC-1α regulates VEGFA in the retina and is required for normal vessel development and for pathological neovascularization. The data highlight PGC-1α as a novel target in the treatment of neovascular diseases of the eye.

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