Wnt signaling activates MFSD2A to suppress vascular endothelial transcytosis and maintain blood-retinal barrier

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Science Advances  28 Aug 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 35, eaba7457
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba7457


Breakdown of the blood-retinal barrier (BRB) causes retinal edema and vision loss. We investigated the role of Wnt signaling in maintaining the BRB by limiting transcytosis. Mice lacking either the Wnt co-receptor low-density lipoprotein receptor–related protein 5 (Lrp5−/−) or the Wnt ligand Norrin (Ndpy/−) exhibit increased retinal vascular leakage and enhanced endothelial transcytosis. Wnt signaling directly controls the transcription of an endothelium-specific transcytosis inhibitor, major facilitator superfamily domain–containing protein 2a (MFSD2A), in a β-catenin–dependent manner. MFSD2A overexpression reverses Wnt deficiency–induced transcytosis in endothelial cells and in retinas. Moreover, Wnt signaling mediates MFSD2A-dependent vascular endothelium transcytosis through a caveolin-1 (CAV-1)–positive caveolae pathway. In addition, levels of omega-3 fatty acids are also decreased in Wnt signaling–deficient retinas, reflecting the basic function of MFSD2A as a lipid transporter. Our findings uncovered the Wnt/β-catenin/MFSD2A/CAV-1 axis as a key pathway governing endothelium transcytosis and inner BRB integrity.

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