See also comment(s) by Nils Loewen & Alicja Strzalkowska •
Endothelial-to-mesenchyme-like transition (Endo-MT) of trabecular meshwork (TM) cells is known to be associated with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). Here, we investigated whether the prion protein (PrP), a neuronal protein known to modulate epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in a variety of cell types, is expressed in the TM, and plays a similar role at this site. Using a combination of primary human TM cells and human, bovine, and PrP-knock-out (PrP) mouse models, we demonstrate that PrP is expressed in the TM of all three species, including endothelial cells lining the Schlemm's canal. Silencing of PrP in primary human TM cells induces aggregation of β1-integrin and upregulation of α-smooth muscle actin, fibronectin, collagen 1A, vimentin, and laminin, suggestive of transition to a mesenchyme-like phenotype. Remarkably, intraocular pressure is significantly elevated in PrP mice relative to wild-type controls, suggesting reduced pliability of the extracellular matrix and increased resistance to aqueous outflow in the absence of PrP. Since PrP is cleaved by members of the disintegrin and matrix-metalloprotease family that are increased in the aqueous humor of POAG arising from a variety of conditions, it is likely that concomitant cleavage of PrP exaggerates and confounds the pathology by inducing Endo-MT-like changes in the TM.
Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, 44106, USA.Full article