Author(s): Rasmussen CA, Kaufman PL. The trabecular meshwork in normal eyes and in exfoliation glaucoma. J Glaucoma. 2014 Oct-Nov;23(8 Suppl 1):S15-9. doi: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000000106. Review. PMID 25275898
Trabecular meshwork (TM) and ciliary muscle contraction and relaxation function together to provide control of outflow. The active role the TM plays in the regulation of intraocular pressure (IOP) is mediated by cytoskeletal and contractility mechanisms as well as signal/transduction factors that mediate its response to stressors. This complex system is altered with age and the glaucomas, and it can be difficult to differentiate between the various etiological effects/agents. Factors such as a compromised antioxidant defense system and altered extracellular matrix metabolism are known to contribute to impaired outflow and may be common to primary open-angle glaucoma, exfoliation syndrome, and exfoliation glaucoma (XFG). Genes differentially expressed in diseased ocular tissue or in cultured HTM cell models, and thus implicated in the disease process, include SOD2, ALDH1A1, MGST1, LOX, and LOXL1, elements of the transforming growth factor-β/bone morphogenetic protein/SMAD signaling pathways, connective tissue growth factor, matrix metalloproteinase-2, a tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases also known as TIMP-2, and endothelin-1 (ET-1). In exfoliation syndrome and XFG fibrillar, proteinaceous extracellular material is produced in excess and accumulates in both outflow pathways but does not always lead to elevated IOP. Locally produced material may accumulate in the intertrabecular spaces, juxtacanalicular (JCT) meshwork, and the inner wall of Schlemm’s canal as a result of a combination of both excessive synthesis and insufficient degradation. An increase in JCT plaque and decreased cellularity in the TM are thought to contribute to decreased outflow facility in glaucoma patients, but XFG patient specimens show reduced extracellular plaque material in the JCT, and the structural integrity of trabecular endothelial cells is mostly retained and cellularity remains unchanged. The distinctions between causes/effects of structural changes leading to reduced outflow/elevated IOP are important for developing effective, individualized treatment strategies.