Purpose: The sclera has a collagen-rich extracellular matrix that undergoes significant biochemical and biomechanical remodeling during myopic eye growth. The integrin family of cell surface receptors play critical roles in extracellular matrix and biomechanical remodeling in connective tissues. This study identified the major collagen-binding integrin receptors in the mammalian sclera and investigated their mRNA expression during the development of and recovery from experimental myopia.
Methods: The presence of the alpha1, alpha2, and beta1 integrin subunits was examined by using tree-shrew-specific primers and RT-PCR. Scleral expression of alpha1beta1 and alpha2beta1 receptor proteins was further investigated by using Western blot analysis and immunocytochemistry. Myopia was induced monocularly by occluding pattern vision and scleral tissue collected after 24 hours and 5 days. In a subset of the 5-day treatment group, vision was restored for 24 hours before tissue was isolated. Total RNA was extracted, and integrin subunit expression levels were assessed with quantitative real-time PCR.
Results: The presence of the major collagen-binding integrin subunits alpha1, alpha2, and beta1 was confirmed by RT-PCR in both scleral tissue and cultured scleral fibroblasts. Both the alpha1 and alpha2 integrin subunit proteins were identified in tree shrew scleral tissues, and integrin receptor expression was localized to scleral fibroblast focal adhesions. After only 24 hours of myopia induction, a time when no structural elongation has occurred, significant decreases were observed in the expression of the alpha1 (-36%) and beta1 (-44%) integrin subunits. After 5 days of myopia induction, alpha1 integrin expression had returned to baseline levels, whereas the alpha2 subunit showed a significant decrease in expression (-52%). The 5-day integrin profiles were maintained during recovery from the induced myopia, with only alpha2 integrin showing a statistically significant relative decrease in expression (-41%).
Conclusions: The mammalian sclera expresses the major collagen-binding integrin subunits. The alpha1 and beta1 subunit expression was decreased early during the development of myopia, whereas the regulation of alpha2 integrin occurred at a later time point. The differential regulation of alpha1beta1 and alpha2beta1 during the development of myopia may reflect specific roles for these receptors in the scleral extracellular matrix and biomechanical remodeling that accompanies myopic eye growth.