PURPOSE: To describe the methods for family and case-control recruitment for a multicenter genetic and associated heritability analyses of Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD).
METHODS: Twenty-nine enrolling sites with 62 trained investigators and coordinators gathered individual and family information, graded the phenotype, and collected blood and/or saliva for genetic analysis on all individuals with and without FECD. The degree of FECD was assessed in a 0 to 6 semiquantitative scale using standardized clinical methods with pathological verification of FECD on at least 1 member of each family. Central corneal thickness was measured by ultrasonic pachymetry.
RESULTS: Three hundred twenty-two families with 330 affected sibling pairs with FECD were enrolled and included a total of 650 sibling pairs of all disease grades. Using the entire 7-step FECD grading scale or a dichotomous definition of severe disease, heritability was assessed in families via sib-sib correlations. Both binary indicators of severe disease and semiquantitative measures of disease severity were significantly heritable, with heritability estimates of 30% for severe disease, 37% to 39% for FECD score, and 47% for central corneal thickness.
CONCLUSIONS: Genetic risk factors have a strong role in the severity of the FECD phenotype and corneal thickness. Genotyping this cohort with high-density genetic markers followed by appropriate statistical analyses should lead to novel loci for disease susceptibility.
Fuchs corneal dystrophy (FCD) is a genetic disorder of the corneal endothelium and is the most common cause of corneal transplantation in the United States. Previously, we mapped a late-onset FCD locus, FCD2, on chromosome 18q. Here, we present next-generation sequencing of all coding exons in the FCD2 critical interval in a multigenerational pedigree in which FCD segregates as an autosomal-dominant trait. We identified a missense change in LOXHD1, a gene causing progressive hearing loss in humans, as the sole variant capable of explaining the phenotype in this pedigree. We observed LOXHD1 mRNA in cultured human corneal endothelial cells, whereas antibody staining of both human and mouse corneas showed staining in the corneal epithelium and endothelium. Corneal sections of the original proband were stained for LOXHD1 and demonstrated a distinct increase in antibody punctate staining in the endothelium and Descemet membrane; punctate staining was absent from both normal corneas and FCD corneas negative for causal LOXHD1 mutations. Subsequent interrogation of a cohort of >200 sporadic affected individuals identified another 15 heterozygous missense mutations that were absent from >800 control chromosomes. Furthermore, in silico analyses predicted that these mutations reside on the surface of the protein and are likely to affect the protein's interface and protein-protein interactions. Finally, expression of the familial LOXHD1 mutant allele as well as two sporadic mutations in cells revealed prominent cytoplasmic aggregates reminiscent of the corneal phenotype. All together, our data implicate rare alleles in LOXHD1 in the pathogenesis of FCD and highlight how different mutations in the same locus can potentially produce diverse phenotypes.
OBJECTIVE: To define the relationship between Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) severity and central corneal thickness (CCT).
METHODS: We examined 1610 eyes from a subset of index cases, family members, and unrelated control subjects with normal corneas from the FECD Genetics Multi-Center Study. To estimate the association between FECD severity grade (7-point severity scale based on guttae confluence) and CCT measured by ultrasonographic pachymetry, a multivariable model was used that adjusted for eye, age, race, sex, history of glaucoma or ocular hypertension, diabetes mellitus, contact lens wear, intraocular pressure, and familial relationship to the index case. An interaction between FECD severity grade and edema (stromal or epithelial) on slitlamp examination findings was used to investigate whether the effect of FECD severity grade on CCT differed between those with and without edema.
RESULTS: Average CCT was thicker in index cases for all FECD grades compared with unaffected controls (P ≤ .003) and in affected family members with an FECD grade of 4 or greater compared with unaffected family members (P ≤ .04). Similar results were observed for subjects without edema. Average CCT of index cases was greater than that of affected family members with grades 4, 5, and 6 FECD (P ≤ .02). Intraocular pressure was also associated with CCT (P = .01).
CONCLUSIONS: An increase in CCT occurs with increasing severity of FECD, including at lower FECD grades in which clinically observable edema is not present. Monitoring CCT changes serially could be a more sensitive measure of disease progression with surgical therapeutic implications.
Corneal transplantation with cultivated limbal or oral epithelium is a feasible treatment option for limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD). Currently utilized co-culture of stem cells with murine 3T3 feeder layer renders the epithelial constructs as xenografts. To overcome the potential risks involved with xenotransplantation, we investigated the use of human-derived feeder layers for the ex vivo expansion of epithelial (stem) cells. Human limbal and oral epithelium was co-cultured with mouse 3T3 fibroblasts, human dermal fibroblasts (DF), human mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), and with no feeder cells (NF). Cell morphology was monitored with phase-contrast microscopy, and stem cell characteristics were assessed by immunohistochemistry, real-time PCR for p63 and ABCG2, (stem cell markers), and by colony-forming efficiency (CFE) assay. Immunohistochemical analysis detected positive staining for CK3 (cornea specific marker) and Iβ1 and p63 (putative stem cell markers) in all culture conditions. The level of Iβ1 and p63 was significantly higher in both limbal and oral cells cultured on the 3T3 feeder, as compared to the MSC or NF group (p<0.01). This level was comparable to the cells cultured on DF. Expression of p63 and ABCG2 in limbal and oral epithelial cells in the 3T3 and DF groups was significantly higher than that in the MSC or NF group (p<0.01). No statistical difference was detected between 3T3 and DF groups. The CFE of both limbal and oral cells co-cultured on 3T3 fibroblasts was comparable to cells grown on DF, and was significantly higher than that of cells co-cultured with MSC or NF (p<0.01). Epithelial cells grown on a DF feeder layer maintained a stem cell-like phenotype, comparable to cells grown on a 3T3 feeder layer. In conclusion, DF provides a promising substitute for 3T3 feeder cells during cultivation of xenobiotic-free corneal equivalents.
PURPOSE: This study sought to determine factors involved in nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) regulation and their response to oxidative stress in Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) and normal corneal endothelial cells (CECs).
METHODS: FECD corneal buttons were obtained from transplantations and normal human corneas from tissue banks. Oxidative stress was induced by tert-butyl hydroperoxide (tBHP). Protein and mRNA levels of Nrf2, DJ-1, p53, and Kelch-like ECH-associated protein1 (Keap1) were investigated using Western blotting and real-time PCR. Immunoprecipitation was used to detect levels of oxidized DJ-1 protein and Cullin 3- (Cul3)-regulated degradation of DJ-1 in immortalized FECD (FECDi) and normal CEC (HCECi) cell lines. Nrf2 subcellular localization was assessed by immunocytochemistry.
RESULTS: Nrf2 protein stabilizer, DJ-1, decreased significantly in FECD CECs compared with normal, whereas Nrf2 protein repressor, Keap1, was unchanged at baseline but increased under oxidative stress. Under oxidative stress, normal CECs upregulated DJ-1 protein synthesis, whereas FECD CECs did not. DJ-1 decline correlated with increased DJ-1 oxidative modification and carbonylation in FECDi as compared with HCECi. Increased labeling of immunoprecipitated DJ-1 protein with anti-Cul3 antibody indicated enhanced DJ-1 degradation in FECDi as compared with HCECi. Following tBHP treatment, Nrf2 translocated from cytoplasm to nuclei in normal CECs, whereas Nrf2 nuclear localization was not observed in FECD.
CONCLUSIONS: Decreased levels of DJ-1 in FECD at baseline and under oxidative stress correlate with impaired Nrf2 nuclear translocation and heightened cell susceptibility to apoptosis. Targeting the DJ-1/Nrf2 axis could yield a mechanism to slow CEC degeneration in FECD.
Human corneal endothelial cells (HCEnCs) form a monolayer of hexagonal cells whose main function is to maintain corneal clarity by regulating corneal hydration. HCEnCs are derived from neural crest and are arrested in the post-mitotic state. Thus cell loss due to aging or corneal endothelial disorders leads to corneal edema and blindness-the leading indication for corneal transplantation. Here we show the existence of morphologically distinct subpopulations of HCEnCs that are interspersed among primary cells and exhibit enhanced self-renewal competence and lack of phenotypic signs of cellular senescence. Colonies of these uniform and hexagonal HCEnCs (HCEnC-21) were selectively isolated and demonstrated high proliferative potential that was dependent on endogenous upregulation of telomerase and cyclin D/CDK4. Further transduction of HCEnC-21 with telomerase yielded a highly proliferative corneal endothelial cell line (HCEnT-21T) that was devoid of oncogenic transformation and retained critical corneal endothelial cell characteristics and functionality. This study will significantly impact the fields of corneal cell biology and regenerative medicine.
Corneal transplantation is the most common form of grafting performed worldwide. Corneal endothelial cells (EC) form a monolayer in the posterior portion of the cornea and are essential for corneal transparency. EC loss during storage before transplantation is a principal reason for rendering donor tissue unsuitable for transplantation, and apoptosis has been shown to be the major contributor to EC loss during storage and after transplantation. Therefore, the potential use of anti-apoptotic gene therapy to promote both graft storage and graft survival is of major interest. The goal of this study was to transduce human donor corneas in vitro to enhance EC survival during storage conditions used in eye banking. We utilized a lentiviral vector to perform gene transfer of baculoviral p35 or mammalian Bcl-xL to corneal endothelium in different storage conditions utilizing a lentiviral vector. Our results show significantly enhanced survival and prolonged retention of physiological EC morphology in cells expressing either p35 or Bcl-xL. The clinical application of this technology could lead to a higher availability of donor tissue for transplantation, extend storage periods and reduce graft failure after transplantation.
Corneal grafting is the most prevalent form of transplantation. Corneal endothelial cells (ECs), which form a monolayer of the cornea with minimal proliferative potential, are pivotal for maintenance of corneal clarity. Loss of EC viability and apoptosis leads to graft failure posttransplantation and reduces the quality of donor corneas in storage, such that up to 30% do not meet selection criteria and must be discarded. The current study investigates antiapoptotic effects of transduced mammalian Bcl-x(L) and baculoviral p35 on human ECs. Multiple apoptotic cell features are observed while inducing apoptosis either via the extrinsic (death receptor) or intrinsic (mitochondrial) apoptotic pathway. Human ECs were studied under three experimental conditions: (1) as an immortalized cell line, (2) as primary cells, and (3) in an intact cornea. Interestingly, in primary EC suspensions, Bcl-x(L) was protective against apoptosis mediated via both pathways. However, p35 was significantly more protective against apoptosis mediated via the intrinsic pathway compared with Bcl-x(L). Our results provide critical insight into the role of apoptotic pathways in the maintenance of EC viability and the efficacy with which these protective proteins exert their effect. These observations could form the basis for future applications of antiapoptotic gene therapy to corneal preservation aiming to reduce both graft failure after transplantation as well as donor corneal damage during storage.
BACKGROUND: Corneal endothelium is an interesting target for in vitro gene transfer strategies as it is readily accessible thanks to its anatomic structure as a monolayer and its direct contact to culture medium. Whereas the use of adenoviruses as viral vectors (carriers) to endothelial cells (EC) has been described as problematic as to its immunogenicity, lentiviruses and adeno-associated viruses (AAV) are potent vectors for the transfer of genetic DNA into EC. Lentiviral vectors, developed on the basis of HI-viruses, can integrate the transferred gene into the host DNA and thus lead to a permanent protein expression. Evaluating apathogen alternatives to lentiviral vectors for humans, we herein compared non-integrating AAV to lentiviral gene transfer.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A comparison was made of the kinetics of expression of a green fluorescent protein after transduction using a lentiviral vector and AAV 2 / 2 in a murine EC line, human EC line and human primary cells (flow cytometry). A proof of principle experiment was conducted to demonstrate the function after lentiviral gene transfer of the anti-apoptotic gene Bcl-xL.
RESULTS: The kinetics of protein expression after transduction of EC using a lentiviral or an AAV vector show fundamental differences. Contrary to gene transfer using AAV, a high expression of the reporter protein was readily detectable only hours after transduction using the lentiral vector. In addition, we could demonstrate distinct differences in protein expression characteristics between human and murine EC as well as human EC line and primary human EC. Function could be demonstrated by showing a significant reduction in apoptosis in both murine and human EC.
CONCLUSION: AAV vectors are an alternative to lentiviral vectors for gene transfer to corneal EC. Given a cultivation time of donor corneas of up to 4 weeks before transplantation, translation to eye banking, e. g., to decrease apoptosis in corneal allografts, is conceivable.
PURPOSE: To study the density and morphologic characteristics of epithelial dendritic cells, as correlated to subbasal corneal nerve alterations in acute infectious keratitis (IK) by in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM).
METHODS: IVCM of the central cornea was performed prospectively in 53 eyes with acute bacterial (n = 23), fungal (n = 13), and Acanthamoeba (n = 17) keratitis, and in 20 normal eyes, by using laser in vivo confocal microscopy. Density and morphology of dendritic-shaped cells (DCs) of the central cornea, corneal nerve density, nerve numbers, branching, and tortuosity were assessed and correlated. It should be noted that due to the "in vivo" nature of the study, the exact identity of these DCs cannot be specified, as they could be monocytes or tissue macrophages, but most likely dendritic cells.
RESULTS: IVCM revealed the presence of central corneal DCs in all patients and controls. The mean DC density was significantly higher in patients with bacterial (441.1 ± 320.5 cells/mm(2); P < 0.0001), fungal (608.9 ± 812.5 cells/mm(2); P < 0.0001), and Acanthamoeba keratitis (1000.2 ± 1090.3 cells/mm(2); P < 0.0001) compared with controls (49.3 ± 39.6 cells/mm(2)). DCs had an increased size and dendrites in patients with IK. Corneal nerves were significantly reduced in eyes with IK compared with controls across all subgroups, including nerve density (674.2 ± 976.1 vs. 3913.9 ± 507.4 μm/frame), total nerve numbers (2.7 ± 3.9 vs. 20.2 ± 3.3), main trunks (1.5 ± 2.2 vs. 6.9 ± 1.1), and branching (1.2 ± 2.0 vs. 13.5 ± 3.1; P < 0.0001). A strong association between the diminishment of corneal nerves and the increase of DC density was observed (r = -0.44; P < 0.0005).
CONCLUSIONS: IVCM reveals an increased density and morphologic changes of central epithelial DCs in infectious keratitis. There is a strong and significant correlation between the increase in DC numbers and the decreased subbasal corneal nerves, suggesting a potential interaction between the immune and nervous system in the cornea.
PURPOSE: This study compared susceptibility of Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) and normal corneal endothelial cells (CECs) to oxidative stress, and studied the mechanism of oxidative-stress-induced apoptosis in FECD-affected endothelium.
METHODS: For in vitro studies, immortalized normal and FECD human corneal endothelial cell lines (HCECi and FECDi, respectively) were exposed to tert-butyl hydroperoxide (tBHP). Apoptotic cell populations were distinguished using flow cytometry. Reactive oxygen species production was measured by a horseradish peroxidase assay. For ex vivo studies, CECs were exposed to tBHP. Oxidative DNA damage and apoptosis were assessed by anti-8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine antibody and TUNEL assay, respectively. p53 and phospho-p53 levels were assessed by Western blot and immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS: Flow cytometry revealed a higher rate of apoptosis in FECDi than that in HCECi after exposure to 0.5 mM (P=0.010) and 1.0 mM tBHP (P=0.041). Further analysis showed increased production of H2O2 by FECDi than that by HCECi. Oxidative DNA damage increased in both normal and FECD CECs after exposure to 0.5 mM tBHP (P=0.031 and 0.022, respectively), leading to a 21% increase in TUNEL-positive CECs in FECD (P=0.015) but no change in normal. Baseline p53 expression was twofold higher in FECD than that in normal endothelium (P=0.002). Immunofluorescence revealed an increase in p53 and phospho-p53 levels in FECD compared with that in normal endothelium.
CONCLUSIONS: FECD CECs are more susceptible to oxidative DNA damage and oxidative-stress-induced apoptosis than normal. Increased activation of p53 in FECD suggests that it mediates cell death in susceptible CECs. The authors conclude that p53 plays a critical role in complex mechanisms regulating oxidative-stress-induced apoptosis in FECD.
The cornea is the clear front of the eye and its surface is composed of an epithelium. This is renewed by stem cells located at the limbus, which encircles the periphery of the cornea. These limbal stem cells become lost or deficient in the blinding disease of limbal stem cell deficiency. In this review article, we discuss the historical perspective in managing limbal stem cell deficiency as well as describing the more contemporary treatment options, and in particular the culture and transplantation of human limbal stem cells. This treatment was first proposed 13 years ago and many case series have been presented to date showing promising outcomes of this technique. However, challenges still remain in treating the debilitating disease of limbal stem cell deficiency. Here we discuss some of the questions, which remain to be answered in this field.
Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) is a progressive, blinding disease characterized by corneal endothelial (CE) cell apoptosis. Corneal transplantation is the only measure currently available to restore vision in these patients. Despite the identification of some genetic factors, the pathophysiology of FECD remains unclear. In this study, we observed a decrease in the antioxidant response element-driven antioxidants in FECD corneal endothelium. We further demonstrated that nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2, a transcription factor known to bind the antioxidant response element and activate antioxidant defense, is down-regulated in FECD endothelium. Importantly, we detected significantly higher levels of oxidative DNA damage and apoptosis in FECD endothelium compared with normal controls and pseudophakic bullous keratopathy (iatrogenic CE cell loss) specimens. A marker of oxidative DNA damage, 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine, colocalized to mitochondria, indicating that the mitochondrial genome is the specific target of oxidative stress in FECD. Oxidative DNA damage was not detected in pseudophakic bullous keratopathy corneas, whereas it colocalized with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling-positive cells in FECD samples. Ex vivo, oxidative stress caused characteristic morphological changes and apoptosis of CE, suggestive of findings that characterize FECD in vivo. Together, these data suggest that suboptimal nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2-regulated defenses may account for oxidant-antioxidant imbalance in FECD, which in turn leads to oxidative DNA damage and apoptosis. This study provides evidence that oxidative stress plays a key role in FECD pathogenesis.
Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) is characterized by progressive loss of corneal endothelial cells, thickening of Descement's membrane and deposition of extracellular matrix in the form of guttae. When the number of endothelial cells becomes critically low, the cornea swells and causes loss of vision. The clinical course of FECD usually spans 10-20 years. Corneal transplantation is currently the only modality used to restore vision. Over the last several decades genetic studies have detected several genes, as well as areas of chromosomal loci associated with the disease. Proteomic studies have given rise to several hypotheses regarding the pathogenesis of FECD. This review expands upon the recent findings from proteomic and genetic studies and builds upon recent advances in understanding the causes of this common corneal disorder.
PURPOSE: To report an unusual presentation of posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy (PPCD) associated with band keratopathy, iridocorneal adhesions, heterochromia, keratoconus, and confocal microscopic findings suggestive of iridocorneal endothelial syndrome.
METHODS: Confocal microscopy, corneal topography, electroretinography, and genetic analysis were performed in the proband and his siblings.
RESULTS: A 23-year-old man presented with decreased vision in both eyes over 9 months. Examination revealed bilateral alterations in corneal endothelial mosaic with corneal edema and beaten metal appearance in the right eye and cystoid endothelial opacities in the left eye. Marked heterochromia, band keratopathy, and broad peripheral anterior synechiae were present in both eyes. Topographic features of keratoconus were noted. Electroretinography did not detect abnormal retinal function, as has been described with PPCD associated with VSX1 mutations. Diagnosis of PPCD was postulated on the basis of the examination of 3 of proband's brothers by confocal microscopy. Genetic analysis of 3 known PPCD genes, VSX1, COL8A2, and TCF8, did not detect any mutations.
CONCLUSIONS: In severe cases, PPCD can resemble iridocorneal endothelial syndromes in both clinical appearance and imaging studies (confocal microscopy). There was a strong genetic phenotypic penetrance in the family, which was essential in the diagnostic decision making. A yet undetermined genotype is contributing to this unusual PPCD phenotype.
PURPOSE: To investigate the differential expression of TGFBIp in normal human and Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) endothelial cell-Descemet's membrane (HCEC-DM) complex, and to asses the structural role of TGFBIp and clusterin (CLU) in guttae formation.
METHODS: HCEC-DM complex was dissected from stroma in normal and FECD samples. Proteins were separated by 2-D gel electrophoresis and subjected to proteomic analysis. N-terminal processing of TGFBIp was detected by Western blot analysis with two separate antibodies against the N- and C-terminal regions of TGFBIp. Expression of TGFBI mRNA was compared by using real-time PCR. Subcellular localization of TGFBIp and CLU in corneal guttae was assessed by fluorescence confocal microscopy.
RESULTS: A major 68-kDa fragment and a minor 39-kDa fragment of TGFBIp were identified on 2-D gels. Western blot analysis revealed an age-dependent proteolytic processing of the TGFBIp N terminus resulting in the increased formation of 57-kDa (P = 0.04) and 39-kDa (P = 0.03) fragments in older donors. FECD HCEC-DM showed a significant increase in the 68-kDa (P = 0.04), 57-kDa (P = 0.01), and 39- kDa (P = 0.03) fragments of TGFBIp. Real-time PCR analysis revealed that TGFBI mRNA was significantly increased (P = 0.04) in FECD samples. TGFBIp formed aggregates at the lower portions of guttae, next to Descemet's membrane, whereas CLU localized mostly on top of the TGFBIp-stained areas at the level of the endothelial cell nuclear plane.
CONCLUSIONS: The overexpression of proaggregative protein CLU, and proadhesive protein TGFBIp, have been colocalized in the guttae. Such findings provide us with a better understanding of the major contributors involved in the aberrant cell-extracellular matrix interactions seen in the guttae of patients with FECD.
The corneal limbus harbors corneal epithelial stem cells and contributes to the unique microenvironment of the stem cell niche. Corneal conditions, such as infections, tumors, immunological disorders, trauma, and chemical burns, often lead to the deficiency of the corneal stem cells, and subsequent vision loss. One key feature of limbal stem cell deficiency is corneal neovascularization. There is a delicate balance between pro-angiogenic and anti-angiogenic factors that, in a normal cornea, maintain an avascular state. A pro-angiogenic shift in this balance can occur due to various mechanisms, such as inflammation, gene mutations, physical breach in the limbal barrier, and decreased production of anti-angiogenic molecules. Currently available treatment options for limbal stem cell deficiency include allogeneic and autologous limbal transplants, and more recently, transplantation of alternative sources of epithelium, such as cultivated corneal and oral mucosal stem cells. Further studies are needed to investigate the combination of limbal and stem cell transplantation and concurrent anti-angiogenic therapy.
OBJECTIVE: To study the safety and efficacy of topical bevacizumab in the treatment of corneal neovascularization (NV).
DESIGN: In a prospective, open-label, noncomparative study, 10 eyes from 10 patients with stable corneal NV were treated with topical bevacizumab, 1.0%, for 3 weeks and followed up for up to 24 weeks.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary safety variables were the occurrence of ocular and systemic adverse events throughout the course of the study. The primary efficacy variables were neovascular area, the area of the corneal vessels themselves; vessel caliber, the mean diameter of the corneal vessels; and invasion area, the fraction of the total corneal area covered by the vessels.
RESULTS: From baseline visit to the last follow-up visit, mean reductions were 47.1% (standard deviation [SD], 36.7%) for neovascular area, 54.1% (SD, 28.1%) for vessel caliber, and 12.2% (SD, 42.0%) for invasion area. The decreases in neovascular area and vessel caliber were statistically significant (P= .001 and P< .001, respectively). However, changes in invasion area did not achieve statistical significance (P= .19). Visual acuity and central corneal thickness showed no significant changes. Topical bevacizumab was well tolerated with no adverse events.
CONCLUSIONS: Short-term topical bevacizumab therapy reduces the severity of corneal NV without local or systemic adverse effects.
APPLICATION TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Topical bevacizumab provides an alternative therapy in the treatment of stable corneal NV.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00559936.