2016 Volume 49 Issue 2 Pages 67-74
Choroidal neovascularization is one of the major pathological changes in age-related macular degeneration, which causes devastating blindness in the elderly population. The molecular mechanism of choroidal neovascularization has been under extensive investigation, but is still an open question. We focused on sonic hedgehog signaling, which is implicated in angiogenesis in various organs. Laser-induced injuries to the mouse retina were made to cause choroidal neovascularization. We examined gene expression of sonic hedgehog, its receptors (patched1, smoothened, cell adhesion molecule down-regulated by oncogenes (Cdon) and biregional Cdon-binding protein (Boc)) and downstream transcription factors (Gli1-3) using real-time RT-PCR. At seven days after injury, mRNAs for Patched1 and Gli1 were upregulated in response to injury, but displayed no upregulation in control retinas. Immunohistochemistry revealed that Patched1 and Gli1 proteins were localized to CD31-positive endothelial cells that cluster between the wounded retina and the pigment epithelium layer. Treatment with the hedgehog signaling inhibitor cyclopamine did not significantly decrease the size of the neovascularization areas, but the hedgehog agonist purmorphamine made the areas significantly larger than those in untreated retina. These results suggest that the hedgehog-signaling cascade may be a therapeutic target for age-related macular degeneration.