Alterations in the aqueous humor proteome in patients with Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy

Mol Vis. 2010 Nov 11:16:2376-83.


Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) is a progressive disorder characterized by corneal endothelial decompensation leading to corneal edema, clouding, and vision impairment. Despite improved understanding over the last century since its first description, the exact mechanism(s) behind the pathogenesis of FECD remain unknown, and surgical correction is the only effective treatment available. Previous studies have suggested a role for changes in aqueous humor (AH) composition in FECD pathogenesis, so to explore this possibility, we probed the AH proteome for alterations correlating with end-stage corneal disease. Following albumin depletion we performed label-free quantitative tandem mass spectrometry on proteins isolated from patients with and without FECD who were scheduled to undergo routine cataract extraction. We identified 64 proteins, most of which were identified in previous AH proteomic studies of patients with cataracts, in the albumin-depleted fraction. The levels of five of these were significantly lower (afamin, complement C3, histidine-rich glycoprotein, immunoglobulin heavy [IgH], and protein family with sequence similarity 3, member C [FAM3C]), while the levels of one (suprabasin) was significantly higher in patients with FECD compared to controls (p≤0.01). We also identified 34 proteins in the albumin-bound fraction, four of which were significantly elevated in patients with FECD including a hemoglobin fragment, immunoglobulin kappa (IgK), immunoglobulin lambda (IgL), and uncharacterized protein albumin (ALB), (p≤0.01). Although it has been reported that females have a greater extent of disease than males, we were unable to detect any significant differences in protein levels due to gender. Because FECD is a progressive disorder, regression analyses were performed to determine any significant correlations with age, and of interest retinol-binding protein 3 was significantly correlated with age in patients with FECD (p≤0.01), whereas no proteins in the control group correlated with age. This is the first report indicating alterations in the AH proteome with FECD, and taken together this study suggests several novel hypotheses regarding AH proteins role in FECD pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aqueous Humor / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Eye Proteins / chemistry
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fuchs' Endothelial Dystrophy / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteome / metabolism*


  • Eye Proteins
  • Proteome