Structural changes of the trabecular meshwork in different kinds of glaucoma

Exp Eye Res. 2009 Apr;88(4):769-75. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.11.025. Epub 2008 Dec 6.


The morphology of the trabecular meshwork in three types of open angle glaucoma: primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), corticosteroid-induced glaucoma and pigmentary glaucoma (PG) are described. Ageing is one major risk factor for development of POAG. It is assumed that preexisting age-related changes of the trabecular meshwork (TM) play a role for the development of increased outflow resistance and intraocular pressure (IOP) in various types of glaucoma. These age-related changes in the TM develop concomitant with that of presbyopia. Therefore the functional relationship between ciliary muscle (CM) and TM and the age-related changes in morphology of the outflow system are described first. One main finding in the ageing TM concerns changes of the elastic fiber network and the anterior elastic tendons of the CM. There is an increase in thickness of the sheath of the elastic fibers. Cross-sections through these fibers with their sheath appear as extracellular plaques and were therefore termed "sheath derived plaques" (SD-plaques). Morphologically, the TM changes in POAG resemble that of the ageing TM, but in POAG there is a significant increase in SD-plaques compared to age-matched controls. This increase is due to fine fibrils and other components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) that adhere to the sheaths of the elastic fibers and their connections to the inner wall endothelium. In POAG eyes there is also a marked loss of TM cells, at places leading to fusion and thickening of trabecular lamellae. In steroid-induced glaucoma there is also an increase in fine fibrillar material in the subendothelial region of SC. In contrast to POAG eyes these fibrils do not adhere to the sheath of the elastic fibers but are deposited underneath the inner wall endothelium. The main finding in steroid-induced glaucoma is an accumulation of basement membrane-like material staining for type IV collagen. These accumulations are found throughout all layers of the TM. In pigmentary glaucoma loss of cells was more prominent than in POAG eyes. Presumably, this cell loss occurs after overload of TM cells with pigment granules. Denuded TM lamellae fuse and the TM collapses. In the subendothelial region of these collapsed TM areas an increase in ECM presumably due to underperfusion was observed. At other places SC was occluded and the cribriform region appeared disorganized. In most parts of the circumference of the eye, the TM cells contained pigment granules. Occlusion of TM spaces by pigment granules or cells loaden with pigment was not seen in eyes with PG.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology
  • Ciliary Body / ultrastructure
  • Exfoliation Syndrome / pathology
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / chemically induced
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / pathology*
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Trabecular Meshwork / ultrastructure*


  • Glucocorticoids