Aberrant remodeling of trabecular meshwork (TM) extracellular matrix (ECM) may induce ocular hypertensive phenotypes in human TM (hTM) cells to cause ocular hypertension, via a yet unknown mechanism. Here, we show that, in the absence of exogenous transforming growth factor-beta2 (TGFβ2), compared with control matrices (VehMs), glucocorticoid-induced cell-derived matrices (GIMs) trigger non-Smad TGFβ2 signaling in hTM cells, correlated with overexpression/activity of structural ECM genes (fibronectin, collagen IV, collagen VI, myocilin), matricellular genes (connective tissue growth factor [CTGF], secreted protein, acidic and rich in cysteine), crosslinking genes/enzymes (lysyl oxidase, lysyl oxidase-like 2–4, tissue transglutaminase-2), and ECM turnover genes/enzymes (matrix metalloproteinases-MMP2,14 and their inhibitors-TIMP2). However, in the presence of exogenous TGFβ2, VehMs and GIMs activate Smad and non-Smad TGFβ2 signaling in hTM cells, associated with overexpression of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), and differential upregulation of aforementioned ECM genes/proteins with new ones emerging (collagen-I, thrombospondin-I, plasminogen activator inhibitor, MMP1, 9, ADAMTS4, TIMP1); with GIM-TGFβ2-induced changes being mostly more pronounced. This suggests dual glaucomatous insults potentiate profibrotic signaling/phenotypes. Lastly, we demonstrate type I TGFβ receptor kinase inhibition abrogates VehM-/GIM- and/or TGFβ2-induced upregulation of α-SMA and CTGF. Collectively, pathological TM microenvironments are sufficient to elicit adverse cellular responses that may be ameliorated by targeting TGFβ2 pathway.
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