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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Jan 25;53(1):273-8. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-8038.

Analysis of the role of ZEB1 in the pathogenesis of posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy.

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  • 1Jules Stein Eye Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.



To determine how nonsense mutations in the transcription factor ZEB1 lead to the development of posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy type 3 (PPCD3).


Whole-cell extracts were obtained from cultured human corneal epithelial cells (HCEpCs) as a source of ZEB1 protein. DNA-binding assays were performed using the whole-cell extract and oligonucleotide probes consisting of the two conserved E2-box motifs and surrounding nucleotides upstream of COL4A3. ZEB1 and COL4A3 mRNA expression in primary human corneal endothelial cells (HCEnCs) was assayed in both PPCD3 and control corneas by RT-PCR. Immunohistochemistry was used to localize ZEB1 and COL4A3 expression in normal human cornea.


Electromobility shift assays (EMSAs) and competition EMSAs demonstrated binding of protein(s) in the cultured HCEpCs to the E2-box motifs in the probes. The supershift EMSA confirmed that ZEB1, demonstrated to be present in the whole-cell extracts, binds to both the proximal and distal E2-box motifs in the COL4A3 promoter region. Both COL4A3 and ZEB1 are expressed in normal HCEnCs, although in PPCD3, ZEB1 expression is decreased and COL4A3 expression is increased compared with levels of both genes in healthy control corneas.


Inversely related HCEnC expression levels of ZEB1 and COL4A3 in PPCD3 indicate that ZEB1-mediated alterations in COL4A3 expression are most likely associated with the pathogenesis of this corneal endothelial dystrophy. However, the demonstration of COL4A3 expression in healthy adult primary HCEnCs suggests that PPCD3 is more likely to involve an alteration in the timing and/or degree of COL4A3 expression than to result from the dichotomous change implied by the previously proposed ectopic expression model.

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