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Cell Tissue Res. 2012 Jan;347(1):279-90. doi: 10.1007/s00441-011-1274-7. Epub 2011 Nov 19.

The role of TGF-β in the pathogenesis of primary open-angle glaucoma.

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Institute of Human Anatomy and Embryology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.


Transforming growth factor-β2 (TGF-β2) is found in increasing amounts in aqueous humor and reactive optic nerve astrocytes of patients with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), a major cause of blindness worldwide. The available data strongly indicate that TGF-β2 is a key player contributing to the structural changes in the extracellular matrix (ECM) of the trabecular meshwork and optic nerve head as characteristically seen in POAG. The changes involve an induction in the expression of various ECM molecules and are remarkably similar in trabecular meshwork cells and optic nerve head astrocytes. The ECM changes in the trabecular meshwork most probably play a role in the increase of aqueous humor outflow resistance causing higher intraocular pressure (IOP). In the optic nerve head, TGF-β2-induced changes might contribute to deformation of the optic nerve axons causing impairment of axonal transport and neurotrophic supply and leading to their continuous degeneration. The increase in IOP further adds mechanical stress and strain to optic nerve axons and accelerates degenerative changes. In addition, high IOP might induce the expression of activated TGF-β1 in trabecular meshwork cells and optic nerve head astrocytes; this again might significantly lead to the progress of axonal degeneration. The action of TGF-β2 in POAG is largely mediated through the connective tissue growth factor, whereas the activities of TGF-β1 and -β2 are modulated by the blocking effects of bone morphogenetic protein-4 (BMP-4) and BMP-7, by gremlin that inhibits BMP signaling and by several species of microRNAs.

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