Astrocytes invade the developing retina from the optic nerve head, over the axons of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). RGCs express the platelet- derived growth factor A-chain (PDGF-A) and retinal astrocytes the PDGF alpha- receptor (PDGFRα), suggesting that PDGF mediates a paracrine interaction between these cells. To test this, we inhibited PDGF signaling in the eye with a neutralizing anti-PDGFRα antibody or a soluble extracellular fragment of PDGFRα. These treatments inhibited development of the astrocyte network. We also generated transgenic mice that overexpress PDGF-A in RGCs. This resulted in hyperproliferation of astrocytes, which in turn induced excessive vasculogenesis. Thus, PDGF appears to be a link in the chain of cell-cell interactions responsible for matching numbers of neurons, astrocytes, and blood vessels during retinal development.
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