Purpose: During the increased eye growth that results in myopia, the sclera undergoes biochemical and biomechanical remodeling. The cell surface integrin receptor family has important roles during tissue remodeling, regulating the extracellular matrix environment and cellular biomechanical properties. As integrin receptors may have a role in remodeling during myopia, this study detailed subunit gene expression in the mammalian sclera.
Methods: Several tissues, including sclera, were isolated from the tree shrew, a mammalian model used in eye growth studies. Total RNA was purified, reverse transcribed and primers for the alpha- and beta-integrin subunits were designed to the published human sequence in areas of high inter-species homology. PCR was used to amplify products of predetermined size and all tree shrew integrin subunits were sequenced to confirm their identity. Multiple PCR conditions were used to identify the scleral integrin subunits, and positive control tissues were included to reduce the possibility of false negative results.
Results: Integrin PCR products corresponding to the beta1-, beta4-, beta5-, and beta8-integrin subunits and the alpha-integrin subunits, alpha1-6-, alpha9-11- and alphav-integrin were identified in the sclera and in scleral fibroblast cultures. The respective sequences showed a high identity (>81%) to their human counterparts. The beta2-, beta3-, beta6-, beta7-, alpha7-, and alpha8-integrin subunits were not detected in tree shrew scleral samples, despite being present in the respective positive controls. Association of the 4 beta-integrin subunits with the 10 alpha-integrin subunits suggests that the mammalian sclera is capable of expressing 13 of the 24 identified integrin receptors.
Conclusions: This is the first systematic description of the integrin subunit expression profile in the sclera. Due to the multiple roles of integrin receptors during tissue remodeling, the identification of these scleral integrins is an important preliminary step in determining the role of these receptors during normal eye growth and myopia development.