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, 255 (8), 1621-1631

CTG18.1 Repeat Expansion May Reduce TCF4 Gene Expression in Corneal Endothelial Cells of German Patients With Fuchs' Dystrophy


CTG18.1 Repeat Expansion May Reduce TCF4 Gene Expression in Corneal Endothelial Cells of German Patients With Fuchs' Dystrophy

Sabine Foja et al. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol.


Purpose: It was the aim of this investigation to elucidate the functional effects of CTG18.1 trinucleotide repeat expansion and the polymorphism rs613872 in the transcription factor 4 (TCF4) in corneas of patients affected by Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD).

Methods: Sixty-one unrelated German patients with FECD and 113 unaffected controls were investigated and genotyped for the CTG18.1 locus by triplet primed PCR (TP-PCR) and the rs613872 polymorphism via Sanger sequencing and by employing genomic DNA from peripheral blood leucocytes. DNA and RNA retrieved from human corneal endothelial explants were examined for alterations in the gene expression of TCF4, ZEB1, E-cadherin, N-cadherin, as well as the CTG18.1 locus.

Results: The CTG18.1 trinucleotide repeat expansion (>50 repeats) was detected in the peripheral blood in 77% of affected FECD patients and 11.5% of the healthy volunteers. Applying the TP-PCR method, the length of CTG18.1 repeat expansions correlates in the blood and corneal cells. We noted that the CTG18.1 trinucleotide repeat expansion was associated with reduced TCF4 and ZEB1 gene expression, especially in the explanted corneal endothelial cells. While E-cadherin gene expression was not detected in any corneal endothelial cells, expression of CDH2 (N-cadherin) was detected in FECD-affected endothelium and in our controls.

Conclusions: The CTG18.1 repeat expansion may reduce gene expression of TCF4 and ZEB1, suggesting that a mechanism triggering a loss of function may contribute to FECD. The correlation of CTG18.1 repeat expansion from blood and the cornea may represent the first step toward investigating the potential relevance of testing the blood of cornea donors to minimize the risk of transplanting grafts potentially affected with FECD.

Keywords: CTG18.1 repeat expansion; Fuchs’ dystrophy; Reduced TCF4 expression.

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