To examine the distribution and relative levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the nondiabetic and preproliferative diabetic human retina and choroid.
Immunohistochemical localization was performed on frozen sections from cryopreserved postmortem human tissue using a polyclonal antibody against VEGF and a streptavidin peroxidase system. Eyes from 5 subjects without diabetes and 8 subjects with diabetes were examined and analyzed using a 7-point immunohistochemical grading system.
In subjects without diabetes, weak or no VEGF immunoreactivity was associated with retinal blood vessels. In subjects with diabetes, we found significantly increased immunoreactivity in the retinal vascular endothelium and blood vessel walls. Vascular endothelial growth factor immunoreactivity was also associated with intravascular leukocytes in subjects with and without diabetes. In the choroid of subjects without diabetes, immunoreactivity was almost exclusively associated with intravascular leukocytes, whereas in diabetic subjects, immunoreactivity was localized within choriocapillaris endothelium, choroidal neovascular endothelium, and migrating retinal pigment epithelium cells.
The observed increase in VEGF immunoreactivity in the diabetic retina and choroid suggests that VEGF may contribute to 2 well-documented events during retinopathy: increased vascular permeability and angiogenesis.