Effects of cardiotonic steroids on trabecular meshwork cells: Search for mediator of ouabain-enhanced outflow facility

Ang Li, Juni Banerjee, Kim Peterson-Yantorno, W. Daniel Stamer, Chi Ting Leung, Mortimer M. Civan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) is currently the only strategy documented to slow the onset and progression of glaucomatous blindness. Ouabain, a cardiotonic glycoside inhibitor of Na +, K +-activated ATPase, was recently reported to enhance outflow facility in porcine anterior segments at concentrations as low as 30 nM for ≥4 h, suggesting a novel approach to lowering IOP. The underlying mechanism is unknown, but associated cytoskeletal changes were observed in porcine trabecular meshwork cells. We have previously found that changes in ATP release and subsequent ectoenzymatic conversion to adenosine may play a role in linking cytoskeletal remodeling with modulation of outflow resistance. We now tested whether altered ATP release might also be a mediator of ouabain's effect on outflow facility. ATP release from transformed human TM5 and explant-derived human trabecular meshwork cells was measured by the luciferin-luciferase reaction. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) were studied by zymography, cell Na + concentration by SBFI fluorometry, gene expression of ATP-release pathways by real-time PCR, cell volume by electronic cell sorting and cell viability by the LDH and MTT methods. Actin was examined by confocal microscopy of phalloidin-stained cells. Contrary to expectation, ouabain at concentrations ≥10 nM inhibited swelling-triggered ATP release from TM5 cells after ≥4 h of exposure. Inhibition was enhanced by increasing ouabain concentration and exposure time. Similar effects were produced by the reversible cardiac aglycone strophanthidin. Ouabain also inhibited swelling-activated ATP release from explant-derived native human TM cells. Ouabain (4 h, 30 nM and 100 nM) did not alter gene expression of the ATP-release pathways, and cell viability was unchanged by exposure to ouabain (30 nM-1 μM). Preincubation with 30 nM ouabain for 4 h did not detectably change Na + level, the regulatory volume decrease (RVD) or the actin cytoskeleton of TM5 cells, but did inhibit hypotonicity-elicited ATP release. Moreover, even when N-methyl-d-glucosamine replaced Na + in the extracellular fluid, ouabain still inhibited swelling-initiated ATP release at 100 nM. In the absence of ouabain, extracellular ATP stimulated MMP secretion, which was largely blocked by inhibiting conversion of ATP to adenosine, as expected. In contrast, ouabain reduced ATP release, but did not alter secretion of MMP-2 and MMP-9 from cells pretreated for ≤4 h. The results suggest that: (1) ouabain can trigger enhancement of outflow facility independent of its transport and actin-restructuring effects exerted at higher concentration and longer duration; (2) ouabain exerts parallel independent effects on ATP release and outflow facility; and (3) these effects likely reflect ouabain-induced changes in the scaffolding and/or signaling functions of Na +, K +-activated ATPase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-12
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental eye research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • ATP release
  • Adenosine
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Matrix metalloproteinase
  • Na , K -activated ATPase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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