Clinical Role of Epigenetics and Network Analysis in Eye Diseases: A Translational Science Review

J Ophthalmol. 2019 Dec 23:2019:2424956. doi: 10.1155/2019/2424956. eCollection 2019.


Network medicine is a molecular-bioinformatic approach analyzing gene-gene interactions that can perturb the human interactome. This review focuses on epigenetic changes involved in several ocular diseases, such as DNA methylation, histone and nonhistone post-translational modifications, and noncoding RNA regulators. Although changes in aberrant DNA methylation play a major role in the pathogenesis of most ocular diseases, histone modifications are seldom investigated. Hypermethylation in TGM-2 and hypomethylation in MMP-2/CD24 promoter genes may play a crucial role in pterygium development; hypermethylation in regulatory regions of GSTP1 and OGG1 genes appear to be diagnostic biomarkers of cataract; hypomethylation of TGF-β1 promoter may trigger glaucoma onset; hypermethylation of the LOXL1 gene might be associated with pseudoexfoliation syndrome. A large panel of upregulated micro-RNAs (miRNAs), including hsa-hsa-miR-494, hsa-let-7e, hsa-miR-513-1, hsa-miR-513-2, hsa-miR-518c, hsa-miR-129-1, hsa-miR-129-2, hsa-miR-198, hsa-miR-492, hsa-miR-498, hsa-miR-320, hsa-miR-503, and hsa-miR-373, may have a putative role in the development of retinoblastoma. Hypermethylation of H3K4 and hypomethylation of H3K27 at the TGFBIp locus are putative pathogenic mechanisms involved in corneal dystrophies. Determining how, where, and when specific epigenetic changes trigger ocular diseases may provide useful clinical biomarkers for their prevention, diagnosis, and management, as well as innovative drug targets. PF-04523655, a 19-nucleotide methylated double-stranded siRNA targeting the RTP80 gene, showed a dose-related improvement in best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) in patients affected by diabetic macular edema. The observed results support a clinical network-based research program aimed to clarify the role of epigenetic regulators in the development of ocular diseases and personalized therapy.

Publication types

  • Review