Investigative ophthalmology & visual science

Four subunits (αβγδ) of the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) are expressed in the human eye in various locations.

PMID 22167092


The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is typically expressed in sodium-absorbing epithelia. Several reports suggest that ENaC is also expressed in ocular tissues and may play a role in aqueous humor secretion and glaucoma. However, the precise localization of ENaC in the human eye is still unclear. Here, the authors studied ENaC expression in 12 normal human donor eyes and in six eyes of patients with glaucoma. Quantitative real-time PCR was used to investigate the expression of α-, β-, γ-, and δ-ENaC transcripts in ocular tissues. In addition, the authors performed immunohistochemical studies using recently generated antibodies against human β- and γ-ENaC. At the mRNA level, all four ENaC subunits were found to be expressed in a wide range of ocular tissues from normal and glaucomatous human eyes, with the cornea, ciliary body, iris, and retina showing the highest expression levels. At the protein level, β- and γ-ENaC subunits showed distinct distribution patterns and could be immunolocalized primarily to the cell membranes of epithelial cells of the cornea and to the conjunctiva, iris, ciliary body, lens, and retinal pigment epithelium but also to vascular endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, stromal cells, and retinal neurons. The authors found no altered mRNA level of any subunit in glaucomatous eyes. All four ENaC subunits (αβγδ) are expressed in the normal human eye, with distinct localization of subunits possibly reflecting different functional states of the channel. The (patho-)physiological roles of ENaC in the various localizations in the eye remain to be determined.