To study the effects of oxygen fluctuations on rat vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), VEGF receptor 1(VEGFR1), and VEGFR2 in a model of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
Retinas at several postnatal days (p) were analyzed for VEGF splice variants, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2 messenger RNAs (mRNAs) using real-time polymerase chain reaction or for VEGF protein using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Older developmental age was associated with VEGFR1 (P < .001), VEGF120 (P < .001), and VEGF188 (P = .03) mRNA overexpression. Expression of VEGFR2 and VEGF164 mRNAs were associated with older age (P < .001) or exposure to the ROP model (P = .02 and P < .001, respectively). Expression of VEGF protein was greater at p14, when 30% avascular retina existed in the ROP model, compared with room air, when no avascular retina existed, and at p18, when intravitreous neovascularization existed in the model but not in room air (P < .001 for both).
Unlike models of oxygen-induced retinopathy that describe ROP before implementation of oxygen regulation, the ROP model re-creates oxygen stresses relevant to preterm infants with severe ROP today. Expression of VEGF164 and VEGFR2 mRNAs and VEGF protein were increased in association with the ROP model and older developmental age and at time points when not only intravitreous neovascularization but also avascular retina were present in the ROP model and not in room air.
Regulation of VEGF may have a role in the development of avascular retina and intravitreous neovascularization in some forms of severe ROP.