Intraocular pressure (IOP), the primary risk factor for primary open-angle glaucoma, is determined by resistance to aqueous outflow through the trabecular meshwork (TM). IOP homeostasis relies on TM responses to mechanical stretch. To model the effects of elevated IOP on the TM, this study sought to identify coding and non-coding RNAs differentially expressed in response to mechanical stretch.
Monolayers of TM cells from non-glaucomatous donors (n = 5) were cultured in the presence or absence of 15% mechanical stretch, 1 cycle/second, for 24 hours using a computer-controlled Flexcell unit. We profiled mRNAs and lncRNAs with stranded total RNA sequencing and microRNA (miRNA) expression with NanoString-based miRNA assays. We used two-tailed paired t-tests for mRNAs and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) and the Bioconductor limma package for miRNAs. Gene ontology and pathway analyses were performed with WebGestalt. miRNA-mRNA interactions were identified using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis Integrative miRNA Target Finder software. Validation of differential expression was conducted using droplet digital PCR.
We identified 219 mRNAs, 42 miRNAs, and 387 lncRNAs with differential expression in TM cells upon cyclic mechanical stretch. Pathway analysis indicated significant enrichment of genes involved in steroid biosynthesis, glycerolipid metabolism, and extracellular matrix-receptor interaction. We also identified several miRNA master regulators (miR-125a-5p, miR-30a-5p, and miR-1275) that regulate several mechanoresponsive genes.
To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the differential expression of coding and non-coding RNAs in a single set of cells subjected to cyclic mechanical stretch. Our results validate previously identified, as well as novel, genes and pathways.