Molecular Biology of Exfoliation Syndrome

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Exfoliation syndrome (XFS) is a common age-related matrix process resulting from excessive production and disordered assembly of elastic microfibrillar components into highly cross-linked fibrillary aggregates throughout the anterior eye segment and various organ systems. The underlying molecular pathophysiology involves a complex interplay of profibrotic protagonists including growth factors, proteolytic enzymes and inhibitors, proinflammatory cytokines, chaperones, and dysregulated stress response pathways including insufficient autophagy. Interaction between individual genetic predisposition and stress factors is a plausible theory explaining the development of XFS in the aging individual. Genome-wide association studies have identified robust genetic associations with LOXL1, CACNA1A, and 5 additional genes including POMP and TMEM136, which provide new biological insights into the pathology of XFS and highlight a role for abnormal matrix cross-linking processes, Ca2+ channel deficiency, blood-aqueous barrier dysfunction, and abnormal ubiquitin-proteasome signaling in XFS pathophysiology. However, the exact pathophysiological mechanisms, the functional role of genetic risk variants, and gene-environment interactions still remain to be characterized.

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