Epigenetics, microbiota, and intraocular inflammation: New paradigms of immune regulation in the eye

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Abstract

Sight threatening immune responses that damage the eye characterize intraocular inflammatory diseases. These diseases including uveitis and age-related macular degeneration are worryingly common and quality of life shattering. Genetic studies in past decades significantly advanced our understanding of the etiology of these devastating diseases. Unfortunately, patient genetics alone failed to adequately explain disease origin, susceptibility, and progression. Non-genetic factors such as the epigenetic regulation of ocular diseases and the environmental factors triggering intraocular inflammation offer new insight into intraocular inflammatory disorders. Importantly, mounting evidence is signaling that dysbiosis of human microbiota leads to rapid epigenomic reprograming of host cells and results in the onset of many diseases. In this review, we discuss how epigenetic mechanisms and microbiota may cooperate to initiate and perpetuate ocular inflammation. Lastly, we propose that the discovery of intraocular microbiota presents a significant shift in thought affecting current approaches to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of intraocular inflammatory diseases such as uveitis and age-related macular degeneration. The geographical and genetic background difference in both disease presentation and genetic association of intraocular inflammatory diseases may be due to the variation of intraocular microbiota.

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