The function of math5 and myocilin in mammalian eye development and disease

Byong Su Kim, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Complex molecular events underlie vertebrate eye development and disease. The eye is composed of two major tissue types: the anterior and posterior segments. During development, the retinal progenitor cells differentiate into six neuronal and one non-neuronal cell types. These cell types later organize into the distinct laminar structure of the mature retina which occupies the posterior segment. In the developed anterior segment, both the ciliary body and trabecular meshwork regulate intraocular pressure created by the aqueous humor. The disruption in intraocular pressure can lead to a blinding condition called glaucoma. To characterize molecular mechanisms governing retinal development and glaucoma, two separate mouse knockout lines carrying mutations in math5 and myocilin were subjected to a series of in vivo analyses. Math5 is a murine homologue of Drosophila atonal , a bHLH proneural gene essential for the formation of photoreceptor cells. The expression of math5 coincides with the onset of retinal ganglion cell differentiation. The targeted deletion of mouse math5 revealed that a null mutation inhibits the formation of a majority of the retinal ganglion cells. The mutation also interferes with the normal development of other retinal cell types such as amacrine, bipolar and photoreceptor cells. These results suggest that math5 is a proneural gene responsible for differentiation of retinal ganglion cells and may also have a role in normal development of other neuronal cell types within the retina. Myocilin has two unique protein coding regions bearing homology to non-muscle myosin of Dictyostelium discoideum and to olfactomedin, an extracellular matrix molecule first described in the olfactory epithelium of the bullfrog. Recently, autosomal dominant forms of myocilin mutations have been found in individuals with primary open-angle glaucoma. The genetic linkage to glaucoma suggests a role of myocilin in normal intraocular pressure and ocular function. However, the analysis of mice heterozygous and homozygous for a targeted null mutation in myocilin indicates that it is dispensable for normal intraocular pressure or ocular function. Additionally, the lack of a discernable phenotype in both heterozygous and null mice suggests that haploinsufficiency is not a critical mechanism for MYOC-associated glaucoma in humans. Instead, disease-causing mutations likely act by gain of function. In summary, these studies provide novel insights into the embryonic development of the vertebrate retina, and also begin to uncover the molecular mechanisms responsible for the pathogenesis of glaucoma.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Genetics|Pathology|Ophthalmology

Recommended Citation

Kim, Byong Su, "The function of math5 and myocilin in mammalian eye development and disease" (2003). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3083496.