Development | 2019
Developmental vascular pruning in neonatal mouse retinas is programmed by the astrocytic oxygen-sensing mechanism
ABSTRACT Vascular pruning is crucial for normal development, but its underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we report that retinal vascular pruning is controlled by the oxygen-sensing mechanism in local astrocytes. Oxygen sensing is mediated by prolyl hydroxylase domain proteins (PHDs), which use O2 as a substrate to hydroxylate specific prolyl residues on hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-α proteins, labeling them for polyubiquitylation and proteasomal degradation. In neonatal mice, astrocytic PHD2 deficiency led to elevated HIF-2α protein levels, expanded retinal astrocyte population and defective vascular pruning. Although astrocytic VEGF-A was also increased, anti-VEGF failed to rescue vascular pruning. However, stimulation of retinal astrocytic growth by intravitreal delivery of PDGF-A was sufficient to block retinal vascular pruning in wild-type mice. We propose that in normal development, oxygen from nascent retinal vasculature triggers PHD2-dependent HIF-2α degradation in nearby astrocytic precursors, thus limiting their further growth by driving them to differentiate into non-proliferative mature astrocytes. The physiological limit of retinal capillary density may be set by astrocytes available to support their survival, with excess capillaries destined for regression. This article has an associated ‘The people behind the papers’ interview. Highlighted Article: Targeted disruption of astrocytic PHD2 led to HIF-2α accumulation and prolonged expansion of the retinal astrocyte population and the resulting supra-physiological astrocyte abundance prevented retinal vascular pruning in neonatal mice.