Purpose: To increase our understanding of the mechanisms that remodel the sclera during the development of lens-induced myopia, when the sclera responds to putative "go" signals of retinal origin, and during recovery from lens-induced myopia, when the sclera responds to retinally-derived "stop" signals.
Methods: Seven groups of tree shrews were used to examine mRNA levels during minus lens compensation and recovery. Starting 24 days after eye opening (days of visual experience [VE]) lens compensation animals wore a monocular -5D lens for 1, 4, or 11 days. Recovery animals wore the -5D lens for 11 days, which was then removed for 1 or 4 days. Normal animals were examined at 24 and 38 days of VE. All groups contained 8 animals. Scleral mRNA levels were examined in the treated and contralateral control eyes with quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) for 27 genes divided into four categories: 1) signaling molecules, 2) matricellular proteins, 3) metalloproteinases (MPs) and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), and 4) cell adhesion and other proteins. Four groups (n=5 per group) were used to examine protein levels. One group wore a -5D lens for 4 days. A second group recovered for 4 days after 11 days of -5D lens treatment. Two groups were used to examine age-matched normal protein levels at 28 and 39 days of VE. The levels of six scleral proteins that showed differential mRNA expression were examined with quantitative western blots.
Results: Nineteen of the genes showed differential (treated eye versus control eye) expression of mRNA levels in at least one group of animals. Which genes showed differential expression differed after 1 and 4 days of compensation and after 1 or 4 days of recovery. The mRNA level for one gene, a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 1 (ADAMTS1), was upregulated in the treated eyes after 1 day of compensation. After 4 days, transforming growth factor beta receptor 3 (TGFBR3), transforming growth factor-beta-induced protein ig-h3 (TGFBI), and matrix metalloproteinase 14 (MMP14) mRNA levels were upregulated. Downregulated were mRNA levels for transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFB1), transforming growth factor beta-2 (TGFB2), thrombospondin 1 (THBS1), tenascin (TNC), osteonectin (SPARC), osteopontin (SPP1), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 3 (TIMP3), and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 5 (ADAMTS5). After 11 days of lens wear, there was no differential expression. During recovery, after 1 day, treated-eye mRNA downregulation was found for TGFB2, TGFBR1, TGFBR2, TGFBR3, SPARC, ADAMTS1, ADAMTS5, syndecan 4 (SDC4), and collagen type VI, alpha 1 (COL6A1). After 4 days, TGFB1, TGFB2, TGFB3, THBS2, and TIMP3 mRNA levels were upregulated in the recovering eye. Significant downregulation, relative to normal eyes, was found in both the control and treated eyes for most genes after 1 day of compensation; a similar decrease was found, compared to lens-compensated eyes, after one day of recovery. Protein levels for THBS1 showed positive correlation with the differential mRNA levels and TGFBR3 showed a negative correlation. No differential protein expression was found for TGFB2, TGFBI, MMP14, and TIMP3.
Conclusions: The different patterns of differential mRNA expression during minus lens compensation (hyperopia) and recovery (myopia) show that scleral fibroblasts distinguish between "go" and "stop" conditions. There is evidence of binocular global downregulation of genes at the start of both lens wear and recovery. As additional information accumulates about changes in gene expression that occur during compensation and recovery the "signature" of differential changes may help us to understand in more detail how the sclera responds in "go" and "stop" conditions.