Hypoxia-induced retinal neovascularization is a major pathological condition in many vision-threatening diseases. In the present study, we determined whether interleukin (IL)-12, a cytokine that regulates angiogenesis, plays a role in the neovascularization in a mouse model of oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR). We found that the expressions of the mRNAs of both IL-12p35 and IL-12p40 were significantly reduced in the OIR retinas compared to that of the room air-raised control. The sizes of the avascular areas and neovascular tufts were larger in IL-12p40 knock-out (KO) mice than that in wild type (WT) mice. In addition, an intravitreal injection of recombinant IL-12 reduced both avascular areas and neovascular tufts. IL-12 injection enhanced the expressions of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and other downstream chemokines. In an in vitro system, IL-12 had no significant effect on tube formation of human retinal microvascular endothelial cells (HRECs). Moreover, a blockade of IFN-γ suppressed the inhibitory effect of IL-12 on pathological neovascularization. These results suggest that IL-12 plays important roles in inhibiting pathological retinal neovascularization.
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