The researchers then added these molecules to cultured human cells that were making the toxic aggregating myocilin. Treating the cells with the newly identified molecules blocked the aggregation and caused the mutated version of myocilin to be released from the cells, reducing toxicity.
"We found two molecules from that initial screen that bound to our protein and also inhibited the aggregation," Lieberman said. "When we saw that these compounds inhibited aggregation then we knew we were onto something good because aggregation underlies the pathogenesis of this form of glaucoma."
In a separate study, Lieberman's lab characterized the toxic myocilin aggregates. That study was published in December 2013 in the Journal of Molecular Biology. The study found that myocilin aggregates are similar to the protein deposits called amyloid, which are responsible for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
"In Alzheimer's disease, the deposits are extracellular and kill neurons. In glaucoma the aggregates are not directly killing neurons in the retina to cause vision loss, but they are cytotoxic in the pressure-regulating region of the eye," Lieberman said. "It's parallel to all these other amyloids that are out there in neurodegenerative disease."
The researchers are now focusing on mapping the structure of myocilin to learn more about what myocilin does and why it is in the eye in the first place.
"The underlying problem with myocilin is that for 14 years it has been studied and
|Contact: Brett Israel|
Georgia Institute of Technology