Epigenomic and Transcriptomic Changes During Human RPE EMT in a Stem Cell Model of Epiretinal Membrane Pathogenesis and Prevention by Nicotinamide

Stem Cell Reports. 2020 Apr 14;14(4):631-647. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2020.03.009. Epub 2020 Apr 2.


Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a biological process involved in tissue morphogenesis and disease that causes dramatic changes in cell morphology, migration, proliferation, and gene expression. The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which supports the neural retina, can undergo EMT, producing fibrous epiretinal membranes (ERMs) associated with vision-impairing clinical conditions, such as macular pucker and proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). We found that co-treatment with TGF-β and TNF-α (TNT) accelerates EMT in adult human RPE stem cell-derived RPE cell cultures. We captured the global epigenomic and transcriptional changes elicited by TNT treatment of RPE and identified putative active enhancers associated with actively transcribed genes, including a set of upregulated transcription factors that are candidate regulators. We found that the vitamin B derivative nicotinamide downregulates these key transcriptional changes, and inhibits and partially reverses RPE EMT, revealing potential therapeutic routes to benefit patients with ERM, macular pucker and PVR.

Keywords: contractility; epigenetics; epithelial to mesenchymal transition; mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition; nicotinamide; proliferative vitreoretinopathy; retinal pigment epithelium; whole transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic / genetics
  • Epigenomics*
  • Epiretinal Membrane / pathology
  • Epiretinal Membrane / prevention & control*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition* / drug effects
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition* / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological*
  • Niacinamide / genetics
  • Niacinamide / pharmacology
  • Niacinamide / therapeutic use*
  • Phenotype
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / pathology*
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Transcriptome / genetics*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Biomarkers
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Niacinamide