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J L Edelman, M R Castro, Y Wen; Correlation of VEGF expression by leukocytes with the growth and regression of blood vessels in the rat cornea.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1999;40(6):1112-1123.
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PURPOSE: To determine the temporal and spatial relationships between neovascularization and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) mRNA and protein expression in the rat cornea after cautery with silver nitrate. METHODS: In female Sprague-Dawley rats, a silver nitrate applicator was placed on the central cornea to elicit circumferential angiogenesis, and blood vessel growth was quantified by digital image analysis of corneal flat-mounts. Total RNA or protein was extracted from whole corneas until 1 week after cautery, and bFGF and VEGF mRNA and protein levels were determined by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). To localize VEGF mRNA and protein, paraformaldehyde-fixed and paraffin-embedded histologic cross sections of corneas were examined by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Macrophages were identified by ED2 immunohistochemistry. To examine the regulation of VEGF, rats were treated with dexamethasone (0.5 mg/kg per day) and hyperoxia (70% O2). RESULTS: The neovascular response progresses in three phases: (1) a nonproliferative phase preceding vessel growth (< or = 48 hours after cautery); (2) a proliferative phase with maximal growth rate between 3 and 4 days; and (3) a regressive phase (day 7) with a decrease in vessel density accompanying the completion of vessel elongation. In corneas after cautery, bFGF mRNA expression was unchanged, and bFGF protein concentration decreaseed by 97% after 24 hours and returned to control levels by day 7. In contrast, VEGF164 and VEGF188 mRNA splice variants and protein peaked 48 hours after cautery, remained elevated 4 days after cautery, and decreased to near baseline by day 7. The peak concentration of VEGF in the cornea at 48 hours was calculated to be 720 pM, which is sufficient to evoke a functional response. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry showed VEGF expressed initially in neutrophils (24 - 48 hours) and subsequently in macrophages (4 days) adjacent to the cautery site. Treatment with either dexamethasone or systemic hyperoxia inhibited both neovascularization and the increase in VEGF expression. Dexamethasone inhibited 27% of cautery-induced VEGF upregulation at 24 hours and 23% at 48 hours, hyperoxia inhibited 32% at 24 hours and 43% at 48 hours, and combined treatment with both dexamethasone and hyperoxia had an additive effect (56% inhibition at 24 hours). CONCLUSIONS: VEGF production by leukocytes correlates temporally and spatially with cautery-induced angiogenesis in the rat cornea. Both inflammatory products and hypoxia appear to sufficiently increase VEGF expression near the cautery lesion to increase vascular permeability of limbal vessels and induce endothelial cell migration and proliferation.
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