Based on transcriptome responses of chick retina/RPE to unilateral spectacle lens wear, plus or minus lenses induce markedly different retinal responses, with initial responses quite different from those when growth patterns are well established. The lists of altered genes identify promising signaling candidates and regulatory pathways for future study, including the hypothesis that retinal circadian and clock genes may participate in the mechanisms governing refractive development.
Because of the retina's role in refractive development, this study was conducted to analyze the retinal transcriptome in chicks wearing a spectacle lens, a well-established means of inducing refractive errors, to identify gene expression alterations and to develop novel mechanistic hypotheses about refractive development.
One-week-old white Leghorn chicks wore a unilateral spectacle lens of +15 or −15 D for 6 hours or 3 days. With total RNA from the retina/(retinal pigment epithelium, RPE), chicken gene microarrays were used to compare gene expression levels between lens-wearing and contralateral control eyes (n = 6 chicks for each condition). Normalized microarray signal intensities were evaluated by analysis of variance, using a false discovery rate of <10% as the statistical criterion. Selected differentially expressed genes were validated by qPCR.
Very few retina/RPE transcripts were differentially expressed after plus lens wear. In contrast, approximately 1300 transcripts were differentially expressed under each of the minus lens conditions, with minimal overlap. For each condition, low fold-changes typified the altered transcriptome. Differentially regulated genes under the minus lens conditions included many potentially informative signaling molecules and genes whose protein products have roles in intrinsic retinal circadian rhythms.
Plus or minus lens wear induce markedly different, not opposite, alterations in retina/RPE gene expression. The initial retinal responses to defocus are quite different from those when the eye growth patterns are well established, suggesting that different mechanisms govern the initiation and persistence or progression of refractive errors. The gene lists identify promising signaling candidates and regulatory pathways for future study, including a potential role for circadian rhythms in refractive development.