Purpose: To establish conditionally immortal mouse corneal endothelial cell lines with genetically matched Slc4a11+/+ and Slc4a11-/- mice as a model for investigating pathology and therapies for SLC4A11 associated congenital hereditary endothelial dystrophy (CHED) and Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy.
Methods: We intercrossed H-2Kb-tsA58 mice (Immortomouse) expressing an IFN-γ dependent and temperature-sensitive mutant of the SV40 large T antigen (tsTAg) with Slc4a11+/+ and Slc4a11-/- C57BL/6 mice. The growth characteristics of the cell lines was assessed by doubling time. Ion transport activities (Na+/H+ exchange, bicarbonate, lactate, and Slc4a11 ammonia transport) were analyzed by intracellular pH measurement. The metabolic status of the cell lines was assessed by analyzing TCA cycle intermediates via gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS).
Results: The immortalized Slc4a11+/+ and Slc4a11-/- mouse corneal endothelial cells (MCECs) remained proliferative through passage 49 and maintained similar active ion transport activity. As expected, proliferation was temperature sensitive and IFN-γ dependent. Slc4a11-/- MCECs exhibited decreased proliferative capacity, reduced NH3:H+ transport, altered expression of glutaminolysis enzymes similar to the Slc4a11-/- mouse, and reduced proportion of TCA cycle intermediates derived from glutamine with compensatory increases in glucose flux compared with Slc4a11+/+ MCECs.
Conclusions: This is the first report of the immortalization of MCECs. Ion transport of the immortalized endothelial cells remains active, except for NH3:H+ transporter activity in Slc4a11-/- MCECs. Furthermore, Slc4a11-/- MCECs recapitulate the glutaminolysis defects observed in Slc4a11-/- mouse corneal endothelium, providing an excellent tool to study the pathogenesis of SLC4A11 mutations associated with corneal endothelial dystrophies and to screen potential therapeutic agents.