Background: The ciliary body epithelia (CBE) of the eye produce the aqueous humor (AH). The equilibrium between the AH production by the CBE and the outflow through the trabecular meshwork ultimately determines the intraocular pressure (IOP). An increased IOP is a major risk factor for primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). This study aims to elucidate the molecular machinery of the most important function of the CBE: the AH production and composition, and aims to find possible new molecular clues for POAG and AH production-lowering drugs.Methods: We performed a gene expression analysis of the non-pigmented (NPE) and pigmented epithelia (PE) of the human CBE of post mortem eyes. We used 44 k Agilent microarrays against a common reference design. Functional annotations were performed with the Ingenuity knowledge database.Results: We built a molecular model of AH production by combining previously published physiological data with our current genomic expression data. Next, we investigated molecular CBE transport features which might influence AH composition. These features included caveolin- and clathrin vesicle-mediated transport of large biomolecules, as well as a range of substrate specific transporters. The presence of these transporters implies that, for example, immunoglobins, thyroid hormone, prostaglandins, cholesterol and vitamins can be secreted by the CBE along with the AH. In silico, we predicted some of the molecular apical interactions between the NPE and PE, the side where the two folded epithelia face each other. Finally, we found high expression of seven POAG disease genes in the plasma membrane of extracellular space of the CBE, namely APOE, CAV1, COL8A2, EDNRA, FBN1, RFTN1 and TLR4 and we found possible new targets for AH lowering drugs in the AH.Conclusions: The CBE expresses many transporters, which account for AH production and/or composition. Some of these entries have also been associated with POAG. We hypothesize that the CBE may play a more prominent role than currently thought in the pathogenesis of POAG, for example by changing the composition of AH.

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Journal of Clinical Bioinformatics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Janssen, S., Gorgels, T., van der Spek, P., Jansonius, N., & Bergen, A. (2013). In silico analysis of the molecular machinery underlying aqueous humor production: Potential implications for glaucoma. Journal of Clinical Bioinformatics, 3(1). doi:10.1186/2043-9113-3-21