EphB4 and ephrinB2 are known key regulators of retinal vascular development, but due to their capacity for bidirectional signaling, delineation of their individual roles in this process remains unclear. To better dissect out individual contributions, a model of proliferative retinopathy in mice with attenuated ephrinB2 reverse signaling was studied. It was hypothesized that endothelial ephrinB2 reverse signaling regulates hypoxia-induced capillary sprouting, as well as the pathologic formation of neovascular tufts in postnatal retinal microvascular networks.
Genetically manipulated mice with attenuated ephrinB2 reverse signaling (ephrinB2lacZ/+), along with wild-type (WT) controls, were exposed to oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR), a postnatal model of proliferative retinopathy. At peak disease (postnatal day 18), microvascular networks were analyzed to examine intraretinal revascularization, capillary sprouting, and pathologic neovascularization responses. EphB4 and phosphorylated ephrinB protein expression patterns along retinal microvessels were also assessed.
EphrinB2lacZ/+ mice exhibited reduced hypoxia-induced revascularization (P ≤ 0.04) and reduced formation of neovascular tufts (P < 0.001), as compared with WT controls. Corresponding to the observed inhibition of retinal angiogenesis, ephrinB2lacZ/+ retinas displayed an increased number of blind-ended capillary sprout tips (P < 0.02) and endothelial filopodial processes (P = 0.001). In WT and ephrinB2lacZ/+ OIR-exposed retinas, ephrinB was confined to endothelial cells, with expression detected along angiogenic vascular processes including neovascular tufts and blind-ended capillary sprouts.
EphrinB2 reverse signaling is a regulator of key processes during retinal vascularization and controls pathologic retinal angiogenesis through direct effects on capillary sprouting and endothelial filopodia formation.
We have uncovered a novel role for ephrinB2 reverse signaling in modulating pathologic (hyperoxia induced) retinal angiogenesis using genetically manipulated mice with attenuated ephrinB2 reverse signaling.