Phenotypic and functional alterations in tunneling nanotubes formed by glaucomatous trabecular meshwork cells

Ying Ying Sun, John M. Bradley, Kate E. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Trabecular meshwork (TM) cells detect and coordinate responses to intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eye. TM cells become dysfunctional in glaucoma where IOP is often elevated. Recently, we showed that normal TM (NTM) cells communicate by forming tubular connections called tunneling nanotubes (TNTs). Here, we investigated TNTs in glaucomatous TM (GTM) cells. METHODS. Primary GTM and NTM cells were established from cadaver eyes. Transfer of Vybrant DiO and DiD-labeled vesicles via TNT connections was measured. Imaris software measured the number and length of cell protrusions from immunofluorescent confocal images. Live-cell imaging of the actin cytoskeleton was performed. The distribution of myosin-X, a regulator of TNTs/filopodia, was investigated in TM cells and tissue. RESULTS. GTM cells contained significantly more transferred fluorescent vesicles than NTM cells (49.6% vs. 35%). Although NTM cells had more protrusions at the cell surface than GTM cells (7.61 vs. 4.65 protrusions/cell), GTM protrusions were significantly longer (12.1 lm vs. 9.76 lm). Live-cell imaging demonstrated that the GTM actin cytoskeleton was less dynamic, and vesicle transfer between cells was significantly slower than NTM cells. Furthermore, rearrangement of the actin cortex adjacent to the TNT may influence TNT formation. Myosin-X immunostaining was punctate and disorganized in GTM cells and tissue compared to age-matched NTM controls. CONCLUSIONS. Together, our data demonstrate that GTM cells have phenotypic and functional differences in their TNTs. Significantly slower vesicle transfer via TNTs in GTM cells may delay the timely propagation of cellular signals when pressures become elevated in glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4583-4595
Number of pages13
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number14
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Actin cytoskeleton
  • Filopodia
  • Glaucoma
  • Myosin-X
  • Trabecular meshwork
  • Tunneling nanotube

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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