Importance: The identification of steep corneal curvatures in a significant percentage of patients with posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy (PPCD) confirms this previously reported association and suggests a role for the ZEB1 protein in keratocyte function.
Objective: To determine whether PPCD is characterized by significant corneal steepening.
Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional study at university-based and private ophthalmology practices of 38 individuals (27 affected and 11 unaffected) from 23 families with PPCD.
Exposure: Slitlamp examination and corneal topographic imaging were performed for individuals with PPCD and unaffected family members. Saliva or blood samples were obtained from each individual for DNA isolation and ZEB1 sequencing. Corneal ZEB1 expression was measured using immunohistochemistry.
Main outcomes and measures: Percentage of individuals affected with PPCD and controls with an average keratometric value greater than 48.0 diopters (D) in each eye; the mean keratometric value averaged for both eyes of individuals with PPCD and controls; and the correlation of ZEB1 mutation with keratometric value.
Results: ZEB1 coding region mutations were identified in 7 of the 27 affected individuals. Ten of the 38 individuals (26.3%) had average keratometric values greater than 48.0 D OU: 10 of 27 individuals with PPCD (37.0%; 6 of 7 individuals with ZEB1 mutations [85.7%] and 4 of 20 individuals without ZEB1 mutations [20.0%]) and 0 of 11 unaffected individuals (P = .04 for unaffected vs affected individuals; P = .004 for individuals with PPCD with vs without ZEB1 mutation). The mean keratometric value of each eye of affected individuals (48.2 D) was significantly greater than that of each eye of unaffected family members (44.1 D) (P = .03). Affected individuals with ZEB1 mutations demonstrated a mean keratometric value of 53.3 D, which was significantly greater than that of affected individuals without ZEB1 mutations (46.5 D; P = .004). Fluorescence immunohistochemistry demonstrated ZEB1 expression in keratocyte nuclei.
Conclusions and relevance: Abnormally steep corneal curvatures are identified in 37% of all individuals with PPCD and 86% of affected individuals with PPCD secondary to ZEB1 mutations. ZEB1 is present in keratocyte nuclei, suggesting a role for ZEB1 in keratocyte function. Therefore, ZEB1 may play a role in both corneal stromal and endothelial development and function, and PPCD should be considered both an endothelial dystrophy and an ectatic disorder.