Purpose: Decreased trabecular meshwork (TM) cellularity has been implicated as a major reason for TM dysfunction and aqueous humor (AH) outflow abnormalities in primary open angle glaucoma. We previously found that transplantation of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived TM cells can restore TM function and stimulate endogenous TM cell division. The goal of the present study is to investigate whether signaling via gap junctions is involved in this process.
Methods: Differentiated iPSCs were characterized morphologically, transcriptionally, and immunohistochemically. After purification, iPSC-TM were co-cultured with mouse TM (MTM) cells to mimic the transplantation procedure. Through the pharmacological antagonists and short hairpin RNA (shRNA) technique, the gap junction function in iPSC-based therapy was determined.
Results: In the co-culture system, iPSC-TM increase MTM cell division as well as transfer of Ca2+ to MTM. This effect was blocked by treatment with the gap junction inhibitors carbenoxolone (CBX) or flufenamic acid (FFA). The shRNA mediated knock down of connexin 43 (Cx43) expression in iPSC-TM also results in decreased Ca2+ transfer and lower MTM proliferation rates. In vivo, Cx43 downregulation in transplanted iPSC-TM weakened their regenerative role in an Ad5.myocilinY437H mouse model of glaucoma. Mice receiving these cells exhibited lower TM cellularity and higher intraocular pressure (IOP) than those receiving unmodified iPSC-TM.
Conclusions: Our findings reveal a crucial role of gap junction, especially Cx43, in iPSC-based TM regeneration, and provides insights to enhance the regenerative effect of iPSCs in glaucoma therapy.