Purpose: It has been demonstrated that chick eye growth compensates for defocus imposed by spectacle lenses: the eye elongates in response to hyperopic defocus imposed by negative lenses and slows its elongation in response to myopic defocus imposed by positive lenses. We ask whether the synthesis of scleral extracellular matrix, specifically glycosaminoglycans, changes in parallel with the changes in ocular elongation. In addition, there is a choroidal component to compensation for spectacle lenses; the choroid thickens in response to myopic defocus and thins in response to hyperopic defocus. We ask whether choroidal glycosaminoglycan synthesis changes in parallel with changes in choroidal thickness.
Methods: Chicks wore either a +15 diopter (D) or -15 D spectacle lens over one eye, or they wore one lens of each power over each eye for 5 days. At the end of this period, we measured refractive errors and ocular dimensions by refractometry and A-scan ultrasonography, respectively. Pieces of the scleras and choroids from these eyes were put into culture and the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans was assessed by measuring the incorporation of radioactive inorganic sulfur.
Results: We here report that the compensatory modulation of the length of the eye involves changes in the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans in the sclera, with synthesis increasing in eyes wearing -15 D spectacles lenses and decreasing in eyes wearing +15 D lenses. In addition, changes in the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans in the choroid are correlated with changes in choroidal thickness: eyes wearing +15 D lenses develop thicker choroids and these choroids synthesize more glycosaminoglycans than choroids from eyes wearing -15 D lenses.
Conclusions: Changes in scleral glycosaminoglycan synthesis accompany lens-induced changes in the length of the eye. Furthermore, changes in the thickness of the choroid are also associated with changes in the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans. These results are consistent with the regulation of the growth of the eye being bidirectional, and with the retina being able to sense the sign of defocus.