Expression of matrix metalloproteinases and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases in human optic nerve head astrocytes.

PMID 11241738


Glaucomatous optic neuropathy is a common blinding disease characterized by remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and loss of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons at the level of the optic nerve head (ONH). Astrocytes, the major cell type in ONH, may participate in this process by production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors (TIMPs). In normal and glaucomatous ONH, we detected MMP and TIMP expression by immunohistochemistry. Cultured astrocytes were used to characterize expression of MMPs and TIMPs by zymography, Western blot, and RNase protection assay. MMP production was stimulated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA). Astrocytes expressed MMP1, MT1-MMP, MMP2, TIMP1, and TIMP2 in normal and glaucomatous ONH. MMP2, TIMP1, and TIMP2 localized to RGCs and their axons. Increased MMP1 and MT1-MMP expression was demonstrated in glaucoma. Cultured astrocytes constitutively expressed MMP2, MT1-MMP, TIMP1, and TIMP2, whereas MMP3, MMP7, MMP9, and MMP12 were not detectable in tissues or in cultured astrocytes. Our findings demonstrate the presence of specific MMPs and TIMPs in the ONH that may participate in the homeostasis and remodeling of the ECM in glaucoma. Expression of the same MMPs and TIMPs in cultured ONH astrocytes will allow further studies on the mechanisms regulating these enzymes.