Increased intake of ω-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and use of peroxisome proliferator activator receptor (PPAR)-activating drugs are associated with attenuation of pathologic retinal angiogenesis. ω-3 LCPUFAs are endogenous agonists of PPARs. We postulated that DNA sequence variation in PPAR gamma (PPARG) co-activator 1 alpha (PPARGC1A), a gene encoding a co-activator of the LCPUFA-sensing PPARG-retinoid X receptor (RXR) transcription complex, may influence neovascularization (NV) in age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
We applied exact testing methods to examine distributions of DNA sequence variants in PPARGC1A for association with NV AMD and interaction of AMD-associated loci in genes of complement, lipid metabolism, and VEGF signaling systems. Our sample contained 1858 people from 3 elderly cohorts of western European ancestry. We concurrently investigated retinal gene expression profiles in 17-day-old neonatal mice on a 2% LCPUFA feeding paradigm to identify LCPUFA-regulated genes both associated with pathologic retinal angiogenesis and known to interact with PPARs or PPARGC1A.
A DNA coding variant (rs3736265) and a 3'UTR-resident regulatory variant (rs3774923) in PPARGC1A were independently associated with NV AMD (exact P=0.003, both SNPs). SNP-SNP interactions existed for NV AMD (P<0.005) with rs3736265 and a AMD-associated variant in complement factor B (CFB, rs512559). PPARGC1A influences activation of the AMD-associated complement component 3 (C3) promoter fragment and CFB influences activation and proteolysis of C3. We observed interaction (P≤0.003) of rs3736265 with a variant in vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA, rs3025033), a key molecule in retinal angiogenesis. Another PPARGC1A coding variant (rs8192678) showed statistical interaction with a SNP in the VEGFA receptor fms-related tyrosine kinase 1 (FLT1, rs10507386; P≤0.003). C3 expression was down-regulated 2-fold in retinas of ω-3 LCPUFA-fed mice – these animals also showed 70% reduction in retinal NV (P≤0.001).
Ligands and co-activators of the ω-3 LCPUFA sensing PPAR-RXR axis may influence retinal angiogenesis in NV AMD via the complement and VEGF signaling systems. We have linked the co-activator of a lipid-sensing transcription factor (PPARG co-activator 1 alpha, PPARGC1A) to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and AMD-associated genes.