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Exp Eye Res. 2009 Jun;88(6):1020-32. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2009.01.002. Epub 2009 Jan 18.

Gene expression profiling of TGFbeta2- and/or BMP7-treated trabecular meshwork cells: Identification of Smad7 as a critical inhibitor of TGF-beta2 signaling.

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  • 1Institute of Human Anatomy and Embryology, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstr. 31, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.


A distinct structural change in the trabecular meshwork (TM) of patients with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the increase in fibrillar extracellular matrix (ECM) in the juxtacanalicular region of the TM. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta2 signaling may be involved, as TGF-beta2 is significantly increased in the aqueous humor of patients with POAG. In cultured human TM cells, TGF-beta2 causes an increase in ECM deposition, an effect that is blunted or prevented, if BMP7 is added in combination with TGF-beta2. In order to know more about the signaling network that is induced in HTM cells treated with BMP7, TGF-beta2 or the combination of both factors, we identified differentially regulated genes by microarray analysis, and confirmed selected genes by quantitative RT-PCR, Western blotting, or immunohistochemistry. We observed multiple effects of both TGF-beta2 and BMP7 on the expression of a considerable number of genes involved in growth factor signaling, ECM structure and turnover, and modification of the cytoskeleton. Among the genes that were found to be regulated were CAPZA1, CDC42BPB, EFEMP1, FGF5, FSTL3, HBEGF, LTBP1, LTBP2, MATN2, NRP1, SERPINE1, SH3MD1, SMTN, SMAD7, TFPI2, TNFAIP6, and VEGF. Since SMAD7 encodes for Smad7, an inhibitory Smad that acts in a negative-feedback loop to inhibit TGF-beta activity, we silenced Smad7 mRNA in cultured human TM cells by a specific small interfering RNA. Silencing of its mRNA caused a substantial knock down of Smad7 in TM cells. Following combined BMP7/TGF-beta2 treatment, the antagonizing effect of BMP7 on TGF-beta2-induced CTGF expression was abolished. We conclude that Smad7 is the key molecular switch that inhibits TGF-beta2 signaling, and mediates the blunting effects of BMP7 on TGF-beta2 in TM cells. A therapeutic modulation of Smad7 might be a promising approach to influence ECM turnover in the TM and to treat POAG.

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