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Deeg, Cornelia A.; Eberhardt, Christina; Hofmaier, Florian; Amann, Barbara and Hauck, Stefanie M. (2011): Osteopontin and fibronectin levels are decreased in vitreous of autoimmune uveitis and retinal expression of both proteins indicates ECM re-modeling.
In: PLOS ONE 7(12), e27674 [PDF, 690kB]


Autoimmune uveitis is an intraocular inflammation that arises through autoreactive T-cells attacking the inner eye, eventually leading to blindness. However, the contributing molecular pathomechanisms within the affected tissues remain as yet elusive. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a highly dynamic structure that varies tremendously and influences the encompassing tissue. In order to assess ECM re-modeling in autoimmune uveitis, we investigated the expression of ECM molecules fibronectin and osteopontin in vitreous and retina samples. This was carried out in the only spontaneous animal model for human autoimmue uveitis, namely equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) that resembles the human disease in clinical as well as in immunopathological aspects. ERU is a naturally occurring autoimmune disease in horses that develops frequently and has already proved its value to study disease-related pathomechanisms. Western blot analysis of fibronectin and osteopontin in healthy and uveitic vitreous revealed significant reduction of both proteins in uveitis. Immunohistochemical expression of fibronectin in healthy retinas was restricted to the inner limiting membrane abutting vimentin positive Müller cell endfeet, while in uveitic sections, a disintegration of the ILM was observed changing the fibronectin expression to a dispersed pattern extending toward the vitreous. Retinal expression of osteopontin in control tissue was found in a characteristic Müller cell pattern illustrated by co-localization with vimentin. In uveitic retinas, the immunoreactivity of osteopontin in gliotic Müller cells was almost absent. The ability of Müller cells to express fibronectin and osteopontin was additionally shown by immunocytochemistry of primary cultured equine Müller cells and the equine Müller cell line eqMC-7. In conclusion, severe ECM re-modeling in autoimmune uveitis reported here, might affect the adhesive function of fibronectin and thus the anchoring of Müller cell endfeet to the ILM. Furthermore, the absence of osteopontin in gliotic Müller cells might represent reduced neuroprotection, an osteopontin attribute that is intensively discussed.

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