Several lines of evidence suggest a link between age-related macular degeneration and retinal cholesterol maintenance. Cytochrome P450 27A1 (CYP27A1) is a ubiquitously expressed mitochondrial sterol 27-hydroxylase that plays an important role in the metabolism of cholesterol and cholesterol-related compounds. We conducted a comprehensive ophthalmic evaluation of mice lacking CYP27A1. We found that the loss of CYP27A1 led to dysregulation of retinal cholesterol homeostasis, including unexpected upregulation of retinal cholesterol biosynthesis. Cyp27a1–/– mice developed retinal lesions characterized by cholesterol deposition beneath the retinal pigment epithelium. Further, Cyp27a1-null mice showed pathological neovascularization, which likely arose from both the retina and the choroid, that led to the formation of retinal-choroidal anastomosis. Blood flow alterations and blood vessel leakage were noted in the areas of pathology. The Cyp27a1–/– retina was hypoxic and had activated Müller cells. We suggest a mechanism whereby abolished sterol 27-hydroxylase activity leads to vascular changes and identify Cyp27a1–/– mice as a model for one of the variants of type 3 retinal neovascularization occurring in some patients with age-related macular degeneration.
Saida Omarova, Casey D. Charvet, Rachel E. Reem, Natalia Mast, Wenchao Zheng, Suber Huang, Neal S. Peachey, Irina A. Pikuleva
Lipid and cholesterol deposition beneath the RPE in