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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