Purpose: Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is a complex heterogeneous disease. While several POAG genes have been identified, a high proportion of estimated heritability remains unexplained. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a leading POAG risk factor and dysfunctional extracellular matrix (ECM) in the trabecular meshwork (TM) contributes to elevated IOP. In this study, we sought to identify missense variants in ECM genes that correlate with ocular hypertensive POAG. Methods: Whole-genome sequencing was used to identify genetic variants in five members of a large POAG family (n = 68) with elevated IOP. The remaining family members were screened by Sanger sequencing. Unrelated normal (NTM) and glaucomatous (GTM) cells were sequenced for the identified variants. The ECM protein levels were determined by Western immunoblotting and confocal and electron microscopy investigated ECM ultrastructural organization. Results: Three ECM gene variants were significantly associated with POAG or elevated IOP in a large POAG pedigree. These included rs2228262 (N700S; thrombospondin-1 (THBS1, TSP1)), rs112913396 (D563 G; collagen type VI, alpha 3 (COL6A3)) and rs34759087 (E987K; laminin subunit beta 2 (LAMB2)). Screening of unrelated TM cells (n = 27) showed higher prevalence of the THBS1 variant but not the LAMB2 variant, in GTM cells (39%) than NTM cells (11%). The rare COL6A3 variant was not detected. TSP1 protein was upregulated and COL6A3 was down-regulated in TM cells with N700S subject to mechanical stretch, an in vitro method that mimics elevated IOP. Immunofluorescence showed increased TSP1 immunostaining in cell strains with N700S compared to wild-type TM cells. Ultrastructural studies showed ECM disorganization and altered collagen type VI distribution in GTM versus NTM cells. Conclusions: Our results suggest that missense variants in ECM genes may not cause catastrophic changes to the TM, but over many years, subtle changes in ECM may accumulate and cause structural disorganization of the outflow resistance leading to elevated IOP in POAG patients.
- extracellular matrix
- trabecular meshwork
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience