In the retina blood vessels are required to support a high metabolic rate, however, uncontrolled vascular growth can lead to impaired vision and blindness. Subretinal vascularization (SRV), one type of pathological vessel growth, occurs in retinal angiomatous proliferation and proliferative macular telangiectasia. In these diseases SRV originates from blood vessels within the retina. We use mice with a targeted disruption in the Vldl-receptor (Vldlr) gene as a model to study SRV with retinal origin. We find that Vldlr mRNA is strongly expressed in the neuroretina, and we observe both vascular and neuronal phenotypes in Vldlr-/- mice. Unexpectedly, horizontal cell (HC) neurites are mistargeted prior to SRV in this model, and the majority of vascular lesions are associated with mistargeted neurites. In Foxn4-/-- mice, which lack HCs and display reduced amacrine cell (AC) numbers, we find severe defects in intraretinal capillary development. However, SRV is not suppressed in Foxn4-/--;Vldlr-/-- mice, which reveals that mistargeted HC neurites are not required for vascular lesion formation. In the absence of VLDLR, the intraretinal capillary plexuses form in an inverse order compared to normal development, and subsequent to this early defect, vascular proliferation is increased. We conclude that SRV in the Vldlr-/-- model is associated with mistargeted neurites and that SRV is preceded by altered retinal vascular development.
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© 2015 Fujii et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.