von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor mutants faithfully model pathological hypoxia-driven angiogenesis and vascular retinopathies in zebrafish

van Rooijen, E., Voest, E.E., Logister, I., Bussmann, J., Korving, J., van Eeden, F.J., Giles, R.H., and Schulte-Merker, S.
Disease models & mechanisms   3(5-6): 343-353 (Journal)
Registered Authors
Bussmann, Jeroen, Logister, Ive, Schulte-Merker, Stefan, van Eeden, Freek, van Rooijen, Ellen
MeSH Terms
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Edema/complications
  • Edema/pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia/complications*
  • Hypoxia/pathology*
  • Macula Lutea/metabolism
  • Macula Lutea/pathology
  • Mutant Proteins/metabolism
  • Mutation/genetics*
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor/metabolism
  • Retinal Detachment/complications
  • Retinal Detachment/pathology
  • Retinal Neovascularization/complications*
  • Retinal Neovascularization/enzymology
  • Retinal Neovascularization/pathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins/genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins/metabolism*
  • Zebrafish/metabolism*
  • Zebrafish Proteins/genetics
  • Zebrafish Proteins/metabolism*
20335444 Full text @ Dis. Model. Mech.
Biallelic inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene predisposes human patients to the development of highly vascularized neoplasms in multiple organ systems. We show that zebrafish vhl mutants display a marked increase in blood vessel formation throughout the embryo, starting at 2 days post-fertilization. The most severe neovascularization is observed in distinct areas that overlap with high vegfa mRNA expression, including the vhl mutant brain and eye. Real-time quantitative PCR revealed increased expression of the duplicated VEGFA orthologs vegfaa and vegfab, and of vegfb and its receptors flt1, kdr and kdr-like, indicating increased vascular endothelial growth factor (Vegf) signaling in vhl mutants. Similar to VHL-associated retinal neoplasms, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, we show, by tetramethyl rhodamine-dextran angiography, that vascular abnormalities in the vhl(-/-) retina lead to vascular leakage, severe macular edema and retinal detachment. Significantly, vessels in the brain and eye express cxcr4a, a marker gene expressed by tumor and vascular cells in VHL-associated hemangioblastomas and renal cell carcinomas. VEGF receptor (VEGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibition (through exposure to sunitinib and 676475) blocked vhl(-/-)-induced angiogenesis in all affected tissues, demonstrating that Vegfaa, Vegfab and Vegfb are key effectors of the vhl(-/-) angiogenic phenotype through Flt1, Kdr and Kdr-like signaling. Since we show that the vhl(-/-) angiogenic phenotype shares distinct characteristics with VHL-associated vascular neoplasms, zebrafish vhl mutants provide a valuable in vivo vertebrate model to elucidate underlying mechanisms contributing to the development of these lesions. Furthermore, vhl mutant zebrafish embryos carrying blood vessel-specific transgenes represent a unique and clinically relevant model for tissue-specific, hypoxia-induced pathological angiogenesis and vascular retinopathies. Importantly, they will allow for a cost-effective, non-invasive and efficient way to screen for novel pharmacological agents and combinatorial treatments.
Genes / Markers
Show all Figures
Mutations / Transgenics
Human Disease / Model
Sequence Targeting Reagents
Engineered Foreign Genes