Endothelium-specific deletion of Nox4 delays retinal vascular development and mitigates pathological angiogenesis

Xixiang Tang, Joshua J. Wang, Jinli Wang, Hanna E. Abboud, Yanming Chen, Sarah X. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


NADPH oxidase 4 (Nox4) is a major isoform of NADPH oxidases playing an important role in many biological processes. Previously we have shown that Nox4 is highly expressed in retinal blood vessels and is upregulated in oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR). However, the exact role of endothelial Nox4 in retinal angiogenesis remains elusive. Herein, using endothelial cell (EC)-specific Nox4 knockout (Nox4EC−KO) mice, we investigated the impact of endothelial Nox4 deletion on retinal vascular development and pathological angiogenesis during OIR. Our results show that deletion of Nox4 in ECs led to retarded retinal vasculature development with fewer, blunted-end tip cells and sparser, dysmorphic filopodia at vascular front, and reduced density of vascular network in superficial, deep, and intermediate layers in postnatal day 7 (P7), P12, and P17 retinas, respectively. In OIR, loss of endothelial Nox4 had no effect on hyperoxia-induced retinal vaso-obliteration at P9 but significantly reduced aberrant retinal neovascularization at P17 and decreased the deep layer capillary density at P25. Ex vivo study confirmed that lack of Nox4 in ECs impaired vascular sprouting. Mechanistically, loss of Nox4 significantly reduced expression of VEGF, p-VEGFR2, integrin αV, angiopoietin-2, and p-ERK1/2, attenuating EC migration and proliferation. Taken together, our results indicate that endothelial Nox4 is important for retinal vascular development and contributes to pathological angiogenesis, likely through regulation of VEGF/VEGFR2 and angiopoietin-2/integrin αV/ERK pathways. In addition, our study suggests that endothelial Nox4 appears to be essential for intraretinal revascularization after hypoxia. These findings call for caution on targeting endothelial Nox4 in ischemic/hypoxic retinal diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-377
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Angiogenesis
  • Development
  • Endothelial cells
  • Nox4
  • Retina
  • Vascularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cancer Research


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