Targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a common treatment strategy for neovascular eye disease, a major cause of vision loss in diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. However, the decline in clinical efficacy over time in many patients suggests that monotherapy of anti-VEGF protein therapeutics may benefit from adjunctive treatments. Our previous work has shown that through decreased activation of the cytoskeletal protein paxillin, growth factor-induced ischemic retinopathy in the murine oxygen-induced retinopathy model could be inhibited. In this study, we demonstrated that VEGF-dependent activation of the Src/FAK/paxillin signalsome is required for human retinal endothelial cell migration and proliferation. Specifically, the disruption of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and paxillin interactions using the small molecule JP-153 inhibited Src-dependent phosphorylation of paxillin (Y118) and downstream activation of Akt (S473), resulting in reduced migration and proliferation of retinal endothelial cells stimulated with VEGF. However, this effect did not prevent the initial activation of either Src or FAK. Furthermore, topical application of a JP-153-loaded microemulsion affected the hallmark features of pathologic retinal angiogenesis, reducing neovascular tuft formation and increased avascular area, in a dose-dependent manner. In conclusion, our results suggest that using small molecules to modulate the focal adhesion protein paxillin is an effective strategy for treating pathologic retinal neovascularization. To our knowledge, this is the first paradigm validating modulation of paxillin to inhibit angiogenesis. As such, we have identified and developed a novel class of small molecules aimed at targeting focal adhesion protein interactions that are essential for pathologic neovascularization in the eye.
Copyright © 2016 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.