Purpose: In order to identify specific genes that may play important roles in maintaining the specialized functions of lens epithelial and fiber cells, we have analyzed the global gene expression profiles of these two cell types in the human lens. This analysis will also reveal those genes that are exclusively expressed in the epithelial and cortical fiber cells and those genes that may play important roles in the differentiation of epithelial cells to mature fiber cells.
Methods: Oligonucleotide microarray hybridization was used to analyze the expression profiles of 22,215 genes between adult (average age greater than 56 years) human lens epithelial and cortical fiber cells. The expression levels of selected genes were further compared by semi-quantitative RT-PCR and selected genes were functionally clustered into common categories using the EASE bioinformatics software package.
Results: Analysis of three separate microarray hybridizations revealed 1,196 transcripts that exhibit increased expression and 1,278 transcripts that exhibit decreased expression at the 2 fold or greater level between lens epithelial cells and cortical fiber cells on all three of the arrays analyzed. Of these, 222 transcripts exhibited increased expression and 135 transcripts exhibited decreased expression by an average of 5 fold or greater levels on all three arrays. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis of 21 randomly selected genes revealed identical expression patterns as those detected by microarray hybridization indicating that the microarray data are accurate. Functional clustering of the identified gene expression patterns using the EASE program revealed a wide variety of biological pathways that exhibited altered expression patterns between the two cell types including mRNA processing, cell adhesion, cell proliferation, translation, protein folding, oxidative phosphorylation, and apoptosis, among others.
Conclusions: These data reveal novel and previously identified gene expression differences between lens epithelial and cortical fiber cells. The gene expression differences indicate distinct pathways and functions important for the specialization of lens epithelial and fiber cells and provide insight into potential mechanisms important for lens cell differentiation.