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Epithelial Membrane Protein 2 (EMP2) Promotes VEGF-Induced Pathological Neovascularization in Murine Oxygen-Induced Retinopathy.

  • Author(s): Sun, Michel;
  • Wadehra, Madhuri;
  • Casero, David;
  • Lin, Meng-Chin;
  • Aguirre, Brian;
  • Parikh, Sachin;
  • Matynia, Anna;
  • Gordon, Lynn;
  • Chu, Alison
  • et al.


Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a leading cause of childhood blindness. ROP occurs as a consequence of postnatal hyperoxia exposure in premature infants, resulting in vasoproliferation in the retina. The tetraspan protein epithelial membrane protein-2 (EMP2) is highly expressed in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) in adults, and it controls vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production in the ARPE-19 cell line. We, therefore, hypothesized that Emp2 knockout (Emp2 KO) protects against neovascularization in murine oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR).


Eyes were obtained from wildtype (WT) and Emp2 KO mouse pups at P7, P12, P17, and P21 after normoxia or hyperoxia (P7-P12) exposure. Following hyperoxia exposure, RNA sequencing was performed using the retina/choroid layers obtained from WT and Emp2 KO at P17. Retinal sections from P7, P12, P17, and P21 were evaluated for Emp2, hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (Hif1α), and VEGF expression. Whole mount images were generated to assess vaso-obliteration at P12 and neovascularization at P17.


Emp2 KO OIR mice demonstrated a decrease in pathologic neovascularization at P17 compared with WT OIR mice through evaluation of retinal vascular whole mount images. This protection was accompanied by a decrease in Hif1α at P12 and VEGFA expression at P17 in Emp2 KO animals compared with the WT animals in OIR conditions. Collectively, our results suggest that EMP2 enhances the effects of neovascularization through modulation of angiogenic signaling.


The protection of Emp2 KO mice against pathologic neovascularization through attenuation of HIF and VEGF upregulation in OIR suggests that hypoxia-induced upregulation of EMP2 expression in the neuroretina modulates HIF-mediated neuroretinal VEGF expression.

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