Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the possibility that all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) in the eye is a signal related to changes in scleral extracellular matrix in a primate model of postnatal eye growth.
Methods: Juvenile marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) were divided into two experimental groups based on their response to monocular deprivation with diffusers: group 1, treated eyes becoming longer than fellow control eyes (n = 8), and group 2, treated eyes becoming shorter than control eyes (n = 7). Eyes were enucleated, dissected, and assayed for changes in the rates of scleral glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis and ocular RA synthesis. The rate of incorporation of (35)SO4 into CPC-precipitable GAG in scleras was taken as a measure of the rate of synthesis of proteoglycans. In the same eyes the rate of RA synthesis in vivo was measured separately in the retina and the choroid/RPE (choroid with RPE attached) by HPLC. The effect of RA on the rate of scleral GAG synthesis was also examined in tissue-cultured pieces of sclera from additional marmosets.
Results: Induced changes in vitreous chamber length in diffuser-treated eyes correlated inversely with the rate of scleral GAG synthesis (P < 0.05) and directly correlated with the rate of RA synthesis measured separately in the retina (P < 0.05) and the choroid/RPE (P < 0.05). In group 1, the rate of scleral GAG synthesis was significantly lower (P < 0.01) in the treated eyes relative to control eyes, and the rate of RA synthesis in both the retina and the choroid/RPE was significantly higher (P < 0.01). In group 2, the rates of scleral GAG synthesis and RA synthesis in either the retina or choroid/RPE were not found to change significantly in the treated eyes compared with the control eyes. RA partially reduces the rate of scleral GAG synthesis in tissue-cultured primate sclera in a dose-dependent manner after several days.
Conclusions: RA may play a role in the visual control of postnatal eye growth in primates, possibly by inducing changes in scleral extracellular matrix associated with increasing eye size. Decreasing growth rate below control levels may involve other mechanisms.