MUC1 and estrogen receptor alpha gene polymorphisms in dry eye patients

Exp Eye Res. 2009 Mar;88(3):334-8. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.05.019. Epub 2008 Jun 20.


Dry eye syndrome is a collection of common disorders of multifactorial etiology. Although the epidemiology of dry eye has been well studied, reports of genetic patterns that might influence susceptibility to dry eye are few. We reported that the frequency of non-Sjögren's aqueous-deficient dry eye patients expressing only the MUC1/A splice variant of the mucin MUC1 may be lower than that of a normal control group [Imbert, Y., Darling, D.S., Jumblatt, M.M., Foulks, G.N., Couzin, E.G., Steele, P.S., Young, W.W., Jr., 2006. MUC1 splice variants in human ocular surface tissues: possible differences between dry eye patients and normal controls. Exp. Eye Res. 83, 493-501]. Also, He et al. [He, Y., Li, X., Bao, Y., Sun, J., Liu, J., 2006. The correlation of polymorphism of estrogen receptor gene to dry eye syndrome in postmenopausal women. Yan. Ke. Xue. Bao. 22, 233-236] reported a difference between Chinese dry eye and control groups in the frequency of a polymorphism in estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha). In the present study we determined the statistical significance and generality of these observations and tested if the MUC1 splice variant difference between subject groups reflected a difference in the MUC1 variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) size class. There was a perfect correlation between the MUC1/A or MUC1/B splice variant pattern and the SNP genotype frequency of the SNP (rs4072037) controlling that splicing event. In contrast, western and Southern blotting indicated that MUC1 VNTR size class corresponded to the MUC1 SNP genotype in only 80% of cases. We determined the status of the MUC1 SNP in normal and dry eye populations all of whom were female Caucasians. The MUC1 SNP genotype frequency of the normal control group was statistically different from both the non-Sjögren's aqueous-deficient dry eye group with ocular surface staining (P=0.017) and the evaporative dry eye group (P=0.015). We also tested SNP rs2234693 to analyze the polymorphism in the ERalpha gene and found no significant difference in the SNP genotype frequency between the control group and either of the dry eye subtypes. Thus, among Caucasians there is no evidence for an association of the ERalpha gene polymorphism with dry eye syndrome as previously described in a Chinese population. In conclusion, the etiologies of evaporative dry eye and non-Sjögren's aqueous-deficient dry eye are known to be different. However, our results suggest that both of these subtypes of dry eye disease may share a common mechanism or factor related to MUC1 genotypic differences that affects susceptibility to ocular surface damage. This altered susceptibility may not be related to the MUC1 VNTR size class. Therefore, mechanisms influencing protection of the ocular surface against inflammation and damage in different types of dry eye disease warrant further investigation particularly in relation to MUC1 genotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / genetics*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Minisatellite Repeats
  • Mucin-1 / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Protein Isoforms


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • Mucin-1
  • Protein Isoforms