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Open Access Hypothesis

RNA interference as a gene silencing therapy for mutant MYOC protein in primary open angle glaucoma

Mao Li, Jianjiang Xu, Xueli Chen and Xinghuai Sun*

Author Affiliations

Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, Eye and Ear Nose Throat Hospital, Shanghai Medical School, Fudan University, No. 83, Fenyang Road, Shanghai, PR China

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Diagnostic Pathology 2009, 4:46  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-4-46

Published: 16 December 2009

Abstract

Background

Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of glaucoma which is an irreversible blind leading disease and lacks effective remedies. In recent years, POAG has been linked to the gene MYOC encoding myocilin that has been identified to harbor causal mutations. A variety of studies show that the mutant myocilin acts by gain of function. The mutant MYOC protein induces endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and the resultant unfolded protein response (UPR) induces apoptosis in the trabecular meshwork cells, which then leads to an increase in resistance to aqueous humor outflow, elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), and, ultimately, glaucoma. Culturing human trabecular meshwork (HTM) cells at a condition facilitating protein folding promotes secretion of mutant myocilin, normalizes cell morphology and reverses cell lethality.

Presentation of the Hypothesis

We speculate that a complete elimination of mutant myocilin expression in trabecular meshwork cells is safe and that gives the possibility of avoiding the POAG phenotype.

Testing the Hypothesis

We propose RNA interference (RNAi) as a gene silencing therapy to eliminate the mutant myocilin proteins in the trabecular meshwork cells, either in a mutation-dependent or mutation-independent way due to the different engineering of the small interfering (si) RNA.

Implications of the Hypothesis

The RNAi strategy can reverse the pathological process of trabecular meshwork cells and thus treat the POAG caused by myocilin gene mutation. This strategy can also be applicable to many protein-misfolding diseases caused by gain-of-function mutant proteins.