Int J Biol Sci 2016; 12(11):1363-1371. doi:10.7150/ijbs.16334

Research Paper

Aloe-emodin suppresses hypoxia-induced retinal angiogenesis via inhibition of HIF-1α/VEGF pathway

Jianming Wu1,2,3*, Xiao Ke2*, Wei Wang2, Hongcheng Zhang2, Na Ma2, Wei Fu2, Manxi Zhao2, Xiaoping Gao2, Xiaofeng Hao2✉, Zhirong Zhang3✉

1. Laboratory of Chinese Materia Medica, Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, Southwest Medical University, Luzhou, Sichuan 646000, China;
2. Post-Doctoral Research Station, KangHong Pharmaceutical Group, Chengdu, Sichuan 610036, China;
3. Post-Doctoral Mobile Station, West China School of Pharmacy, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041, China.
* Jianming Wu and Xiao Ke are co-first authors of this article.


Background: Aloe-emodin (AE) has been reported to possess the antiangiogenic effect on laser induced choroidal neovascularization. AE inhibits the vessel formation in the zebrafish embryos. However, it is still unclear whether AE can alleviate neovascularization. Here, we investigated the inhibitory effect of AE on the hypoxia-induced retinal neovascularization and the possible mechanisms.

Methods: We established a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) secretion model under chemical induced hypoxia by exposure of 150 µM CoCl2 to the ARPE-19 cells, then treated the cells with different concentrations of AE (0.2, 1.0 and 5.0 µg/mL) or a special hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) inhibitor [3-(5'-hydroxymethyl-2'-furyl)-1-benzylindazole, YC-1, 1.0 µg/mL]. The cellular supernatants were collected 48 h later to measure the VEGFA concentrations by human VEGFA enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kits, the mRNA expressions of VEGFA, HIF-1α and prolyl hydroxylase-2 (PHD-2) by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) and the protein expressions of HIF-1α and PHD-2 by Western blots. For in vivo study, the rat pups with oxygen-induced retinopathy were treated with Conbercept ophthalmic injection (1.0 mg/kg) or AE (5.0 and 10.0 mg/kg) for five days, then the retinal avascular areas were assessed via visualization of the retinal vasculature with ADPase and hematoxylin & eosin (H&E) stains.

Results: AE inhibits the VEGFA secretion of ARPE-19 cells under hypoxia condition, decreases the mRNA expressions of VEGFA and PHD-2 and the protein expressions of VEGFA, HIF-1α and PHD-2 in vitro and prevents hypoxia-induced retinal neovascularization in vivo.

Conclusions: AE ameliorates retinal neovascularization throuth inhibition of the HIF-1α/VEGF signaling pathway. AE may be developed as a potential drug for the prevention and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Keywords: Aloe-emodin, vascular endothelial growth factor, angiogenesis, hypoxia-inducible factor-1, oxygen-induced retinopathy.

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How to cite this article:
Wu J, Ke X, Wang W, Zhang H, Ma N, Fu W, Zhao M, Gao X, Hao X, Zhang Z. Aloe-emodin suppresses hypoxia-induced retinal angiogenesis via inhibition of HIF-1α/VEGF pathway. Int J Biol Sci 2016; 12(11):1363-1371. doi:10.7150/ijbs.16334. Available from