Donna Peters, PhD
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Cell-matrix signaling in the human eye; glaucoma
It is well established that a number of signal transduction events that govern both normal and abnormal cell behavior are modulated by interactions between cells and their extracellular matrix. The significance of these cell-matrix interactions and the signal transduction pathways regulated by them is clearly illustrated by the diversity and importance of biological processes controlled by them. Among these biological processes are gene expression, cell growth, apoptosis, differentiation, adhesion, cell migration, and cell contractility.
My laboratory is studying the role of cell-matrix interactions in the anterior chamber of the human eye so that we can better understand the cause of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease that is known to be the world's second leading cause of blindness. It is believed to be a defect in mechanochemical signaling events that serve to maintain normal levels of intraocular fluid in the anterior chamber of the eye.
My laboratory is interested in understanding what types of cell-matrix interactions occur in the anterior chamber of the human eye and the types of signal transduction events that they control. Recent studies in my laboratory have shown that interactions with an extracellular matrix protein called fibronectin help modulate the levels of intraocular pressure in the human eye and the movement of fluid through the anterior chamber. We have identified the domain in fibronectin that regulates intraocular pressure and at least two signaling molecules whose function is controlled by this domain. We are currently looking for the receptor that interacts with this domain and are characterizing the components of the signaling pathways and the biological processes governed by this interaction. Our long-term goal is to identify potential extracellular and intracellular targets that can be used to control glaucoma via genetic approaches such as gene therapy.