Crosslinked Extracellular Matrix Stiffens Human Trabecular Meshwork Cells Via Dysregulating β-catenin and YAP/TAZ Signaling Pathways

Felix Yemanyi, Janice Vranka, Vijay Krishna Raghunathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. The purpose of this study was to determine whether genipin-induced crosslinked cell-derived matrix (XCDM) precipitates fibrotic phenotypes in human trabecular meshwork (hTM) cells by dysregulating β-catenin and Yes-associated protein (YAP)/ transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) signaling pathways. METHODS. Cell-derived matrices were treated with control or genipin for 5 hours to obtain respective uncrosslinked (CDM) and XCDMs and characterized. hTM cells were seeded on these matrices with/without Wnt pathway modulators in serum-free media for 24 hours. Elastic modulus, gene, and protein (whole cell and subcellular fractions) expressions of signaling mediators and targets of Wnt/β-catenin and YAP/TAZ pathways were determined. RESULTS. At the highest genipin concentration (10% XCDM), XCDM had increased immunostaining of N-ε(γ -glutamyl)-lysine crosslinks, appeared morphologically fused, and was stiffer (5.3-fold, P < 0.001). On 10% XCDM, hTM cells were 7.8-fold (P < 0.001) stiffer, total β-catenin was unchanged, pβ-catenin was elevated, and pGSK3β was suppressed. Although 10% XCDM had no effect on cytoplasmic β-catenin levels, it reduced nuclear β-catenin, cadherin 11, and key Wnt target genes/proteins. The 10% XCDM increased total TAZ, decreased pTAZ, and increased cytoplasmic TAZ levels in hTM cells. The 10% XCDM increased total YAP, reduced nuclear YAP levels, and critical YAP/TAZ target genes/proteins. Wnt activation rescued hTM cells from 10% XCDM-induced stiffening associated with increased nuclear β-catenin. CONCLUSIONS. Increased cytoplasmic TAZ may inhibit β-catenin from its nuclear shuttling or regulating cadherin 11 important for aqueous homeostasis. Elevated cytoplasmic TAZ may inhibit YAP’s probable homeostatic function in the nucleus. Together, TAZ’s cytoplasmic localization may be an important downstream event of how increased TM extracellular matrix (ECM) crosslinking may cause increased stiffness and ocular hypertension in vivo. However, Wnt pathway activation may ameliorate ocular hypertensive phenotypes induced by crosslinked ECM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Crosslinking
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Trabecular meshwork
  • Wnt
  • β-catenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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