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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2019 Aug; 60(10):3283-3296







Purpose: Glaucoma is a complex disease with major risk factors including advancing age and increased intraocular pressure (IOP). Dissecting these earliest events will likely identify new avenues for therapeutics. Previously, we performed transcriptional profiling in DBA/2J (D2) mice, a widely used mouse model relevant to glaucoma. Here, we use these data to identify and test regulators of early gene expression changes in DBA/2J glaucoma.

Methods: Upstream regulator analysis (URA) in Ingenuity Pathway Analysis was performed to identify potential master regulators of differentially expressed genes. The function of one putative regulator, mesenchyme homeobox 2 (Meox2), was tested using a combination of genetic, biochemical, and immunofluorescence approaches.

Results: URA identified Meox2 as a potential regulator of early gene expression changes in the optic nerve head (ONH) of DBA/2J mice. Meox2 haploinsufficiency did not affect the characteristic diseases of the iris or IOP elevation seen in DBA/2J mice but did cause a significant increase in the numbers of eyes with axon damage compared to controls. While young mice appeared normal, aged Meox2 haploinsufficient DBA/2J mice showed a 44% reduction in MEOX2 protein levels. This correlated with modulation of age- and disease-specific vascular and myeloid alterations.

Conclusions: Our data support a model whereby Meox2 controls IOP-dependent vascular remodeling and neuroinflammation to promote axon survival. Promoting these earliest responses prior to IOP elevation may be a viable neuroprotective strategy to delay or prevent human glaucoma.