Extracellular Matrix Regulation and Dysregulation in Exfoliation Syndrome

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Several lines of evidence, such as ultrastructural signs for activated fibrillogenesis and excessive production of elastic microfibrillar components in the anterior segment of the eye and throughout the body, indicate that exfoliation syndrome (XFS) is an elastic microfibrillopathy, leading to the accumulation of an abnormal extracellular fibrillar material (XFM). The upregulation of elastic microfibrillar components is paralleled by the selective upregulation of the cross-linking enzyme lysyl oxidase-like 1 (LOXL1) in the early phase of the disease, suggesting that LOXL1 participates in the stabilization of newly synthesized elastic proteins and finally in the stable accumulation of XFM. Whereas the excessive production of elastic proteins rises from early to late XFS stages, possibly mediated by increasing fibrogenic stimuli in the aqueous humor, LOXL1 is downregulated in late stages of the disease by as yet unknown mechanisms, possibly leading to the well-documented elastotic matrix alterations characteristic of eyes with late stage XFS. Several studies indicate complex changes of the proteolytic balance in the anterior segment of XFS eyes, characterized primarily by decreased matrix metalloproteinase-2 activity, the major aqueous matrix metalloproteinase, potentially leading to a shift from appropriate matrix turnover to progressive matrix accumulation. In contrast, in nearly all tissues of the posterior segment, XFM seems to be absent and differential gene expression is confined to the lamina cribrosa, characterized by a stage-independent, primary, and XFS-specific downregulation of LOXL1 and elastic components in XFS eyes. Concomitant with this deficiency, the laminar elastic fiber network displays prominent ultrastructural alterations, which may lead to increased vulnerability to glaucomatous damage. Various growth factors, stress conditions, or dietary factors have been supposed to potentially influence the manifestation of the disease. However, in spite of increasing knowledge, the pathogenetic factors initiating the abnormal matrix process still remain elusive. Such information would be critical for our understanding of disease progression and would disclose new options for pharmaceutical intervention at the onset of the disease.

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