Combined blockade of VEGFR-2 and VEGFR-3 inhibits inflammatory lymphangiogenesis in early and middle stages.
PURPOSE: Lymphangiogenesis (LG) accompanies many corneal diseases after inflammatory, infectious, or chemical insults and is a primary mediator of transplant rejection. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether there is a time window for therapeutic intervention of corneal LG and whether a combined blockade of VEGFR-2 and VEGFR-3 effectively suppresses early-, middle-, or late-stage LG. METHODS: Corneal inflammatory neovascularization was induced by a standard suture placement model in mice. Neutralizing antibodies against VEGFR-3 and/or VEGFR-2 were administrated systemically with the treatment started at postoperative day 0, day 7, or day 14. Whole mount corneas were sampled for immunofluorescence microscopic studies using LYVE-1 (a lymphatic marker) antibodies. Digital images were analyzed by software. RESULTS: Both VEGFR-3 and VEGFR-2 were involved in corneal suture-induced inflammatory LG. Their combined blockade led to a significant inhibition of both early- and middle-stage LG while demonstrating no effect on late-stage LG. CONCLUSIONS: Corneal inflammatory LG has a discrete time window for intervention therapy. Although it is important to start the treatment as soon as possible, interventions initiated in the middle of the LG process are still effective. These novel findings will shed some light on our understanding of inflammatory LG and the development of new therapeutic protocols for LG-related diseases at different stages.