PloS one

Mapping molecular differences and extracellular matrix gene expression in segmental outflow pathways of the human ocular trabecular meshwork.

PMID 25826404


Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is the primary risk factor for glaucoma, and lowering IOP remains the only effective treatment for glaucoma. The trabecular meshwork (TM) in the anterior chamber of the eye regulates IOP by generating resistance to aqueous humor outflow. Aqueous humor outflow is segmental, but molecular differences between high and low outflow regions of the TM are poorly understood. In this study, flow regions of the TM were characterized using fluorescent tracers and PCR arrays. Anterior segments from human donor eyes were perfused at physiological pressure in an ex vivo organ culture system. Fluorescently-labeled microspheres of various sizes were perfused into anterior segments to label flow regions. Actively perfused microspheres were segmentally distributed, whereas microspheres soaked passively into anterior segments uniformly labeled the TM and surrounding tissues with no apparent segmentation. Cell-tracker quantum dots (20 nm) were localized to the outer uveal and corneoscleral TM, whereas larger, modified microspheres (200 nm) localized throughout the TM layers and Schlemm's canal. Distribution of fluorescent tracers demonstrated a variable labeling pattern on both a macro- and micro-scale. Quantitative PCR arrays allowed identification of a variety of extracellular matrix genes differentially expressed in high and low flow regions of the TM. Several collagen genes (COL16A1, COL4A2, COL6A1 and 2) and MMPs (1, 2, 3) were enriched in high, whereas COL15A1, and MMP16 were enriched in low flow regions. Matrix metalloproteinase activity was similar in high and low regions using a quantitative FRET peptide assay, whereas protein levels in tissues showed modest regional differences. These gene and protein differences across regions of the TM provide further evidence for a molecular basis of segmental flow routes within the aqueous outflow pathway. New insight into the molecular mechanisms of segmental aqueous outflow may aid in the design and delivery of improved treatments for glaucoma patients.