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Shear stress induces autophagy in Schlemm’s canal cells via primary cilia-mediated SMAD2/3 signaling pathway

Myoung Sup Shim, Angela Dixon, April Nettesheim, Kristin M. Perkumas, W. Daniel Stamer, Yang Sun and Paloma B. Liton

The Schlemm’s canal (SC) is a circular, lymphatic-like vessel located at the limbus of the eye that participates in the regulation of aqueous humor drainage to control intraocular pressure (IOP). Circumferential flow of aqueous humor within the SC lumen generates shear stress, which regulates SC cell behaviour. Using biochemical analysis and real-time live cell imaging techniques, we have investigated the activation of autophagy in SC cells by shear stress. We report, for the first time, the primary cilium (PC)-dependent activation of autophagy in SC cells in response to shear stress. Moreover, we identified PC-dependent shear stress-induced autophagy to be positively regulated by phosphorylation of SMAD2 in its linker and C-terminal regions. Additionally, SMAD2/3 signaling was found to transcriptionally activate LC3B, ATG5 and ATG7 in SC cells. Intriguingly, concomitant to SMAD2-dependent activation of autophagy, we also report here the activation of mTOR pathway, a classical autophagy inhibi-tor, in SC cells by shear stress. mTOR activation was found to also be dependent on the PC. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of class I PI3K increased phosphorylation of SMAD2 at the linker and activated autophagy. Together, our data indicates an interplay between PI3K and SMAD2/3 signaling pathways in the regulation of PC-dependent shear stress-induced autophagy in SC cells.

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