The transient receptor protein vanilloid channels, TRPV1 and TRPV4, have recently been shown to be mechanosensors in the ocular lens that act to transduce physical changes in lens volume and internal hydrostatic pressure into the activation of signalling pathways in lens epithelial cells. These pathways in turn regulate ion and water transport to ensure that the optical properties of the lens remain constant. Despite the functional evidence that implicate the roles of TRPV1 and TRPV4 in the lens, their respective cellular expression patterns in the different regions of the lens has to date not been fully characterised. Using Western blotting we have confirmed that TRPV1 and TRPV4 are expressed throughout all regions (epithelium, outer cortex, inner cortex/core) of the adult mouse lens. Subsequent immunolabeling of lens cryosections confirmed that TRPV1 and TRPV4 are expressed throughout all regions of the lens, but revealed differentiation-dependent differences in the subcellular expression of the two channels in the different regions. In the epithelium and outer cortex, intense TRPV1 and TRPV4 labeling was predominately associated with the cytoplasm. In a discrete zone in the inner cortex, labeling for both proteins was greatly diminished, but could be enhanced by incubating sections with the detergent Triton X-100 to reveal TRPV1 and TRPV4 labelling that was associated with the membrane. This suggests that in this region of the lens there is a potential interacting protein that masks the binding of the TRPV1 and TRPV4 antibodies to their respective epitopes in the lens inner cortex. In the core of the lens, which contains the embryonic nucleus, TRPV1 and TRPV4 labelling was associated exclusively with fibre cell membranes. This labelling in the lens core of the adult mouse lens appeared to originate in early development as a similar membrane labelling was observed at embryonic day 10 (E10) of the cells in the lens vesicle that subsequently forms the embryonic nucleus in the adult lens. During subsequent stages of embryonic development TRPV1 and TRPV4 remained membranous in the inner cortex and core, while showing labelling that was associated with the cytoplasm in the superficial outer cortical region. The extent of cytoplasmic labelling for TRPV4, but not TRPV1, in this cortical region could however be dynamically regulated by cutting the zonules that normally attach the lens to the ciliary body. We have shown an early onset and continuous expression of TRPV1 and TRPV4 across all lens regions, and that TRPV4 can be dynamically trafficked into the membranes of differentiating fibre cells, results that suggests that these mechanosensitive channels may also be functionally active in lens fibre cells.
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