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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Ophthalmology

Overexpression of HTRA1 Leads to Ultrastructural Changes in the Elastic Layer of Bruch's Membrane via Cleavage of Extracellular Matrix Components
Published: Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Author: Sarah Vierkotten et al.

by Sarah Vierkotten, Philipp S. Muether, Sascha Fauser

Variants in the chromosomal region 10q26 are strongly associated with an increased risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Two potential AMD genes are located in this region: ARMS2 and HTRA1 (high-temperature requirement A1). Previous studies have suggested that polymorphisms in the promotor region of HTRA1 result in overexpression of HTRA1 protein. This study investigated the role of HTRA1 overexpression in the pathogenesis of AMD. Transgenic Htra1 mice overexpressing the murine protein in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layer of the retina were generated and characterized by transmission electron microscopy, immunofluorescence staining and Western Blot analysis. The elastic layer of Bruch's membrane (BM) in the Htra1 transgenic mice was fragmented and less continuous than in wild type (WT) controls. Recombinant HTRA1 lacking the N-terminal domain cleaved various extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Subsequent Western Blot analysis revealed an overexpression of fibronectin fragments and a reduction of fibulin 5 and tropoelastin in the RPE/choroid layer in transgenic mice compared to WT. Fibulin 5 is essential for elastogenesis by promoting elastic fiber assembly and maturation. Taken together, our data implicate that HTRA1 overexpression leads to an altered elastogenesis in BM through fibulin 5 cleavage. It highlights the importance of ECM related proteins in the development of AMD and links HTRA1 to other AMD risk genes such as fibulin 5, fibulin 6, ARMS2 and TIMP3.
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