Piezo1 channels mediate trabecular meshwork mechanotransduction and promote aqueous fluid outflow

Oleg Yarishkin, Tam T.T. Phuong, Jackson M. Baumann, Michael L. De Ieso, Felix Vazquez-Chona, Christopher N. Rudzitis, Chad Sundberg, Monika Lakk, W. Daniel Stamer, David Križaj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Key points: Trabecular meshwork (TM) is a highly mechanosensitive tissue in the eye that regulates intraocular pressure through the control of aqueous humour drainage. Its dysfunction underlies the progression of glaucoma but neither the mechanisms through which TM cells sense pressure nor their role in aqueous humour outflow are understood at the molecular level. We identified the Piezo1 channel as a key TM transducer of tensile stretch, shear flow and pressure. Its activation resulted in intracellular signals that altered organization of the cytoskeleton and cell-extracellular matrix contacts and modulated the trabecular component of aqueous outflow whereas another channel, TRPV4, mediated a delayed mechanoresponse. This study helps elucidate basic mechanotransduction properties that may contribute to intraocular pressure regulation in the vertebrate eye. Abstract: Chronic elevations in intraocular pressure (IOP) can cause blindness by compromising the function of trabecular meshwork (TM) cells in the anterior eye, but how these cells sense and transduce pressure stimuli is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate functional expression of two mechanically activated channels in human TM cells. Pressure-induced cell stretch evoked a rapid increase in transmembrane current that was inhibited by antagonists of the mechanogated channel Piezo1, Ruthenium Red and GsMTx4, and attenuated in Piezo1-deficient cells. The majority of TM cells exhibited a delayed stretch-activated current that was mediated independently of Piezo1 by TRPV4 (transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily V, member 4) channels. Piezo1 functions as the principal TM transducer of physiological levels of shear stress, with both shear and the Piezo1 agonist Yoda1 increasing the number of focal cell-matrix contacts. Analysis of TM-dependent fluid drainage from the anterior eye showed significant inhibition by GsMTx4. Collectively, these results suggest that TM mechanosensitivity utilizes kinetically, regulatory and functionally distinct pressure transducers to inform the cells about force-sensing contexts. Piezo1-dependent control of shear flow sensing, calcium homeostasis, cytoskeletal dynamics and pressure-dependent outflow suggests potential for a novel therapeutic target in treating glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-592
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Piezo1
  • TRPV4
  • ion channel
  • mechanosensation
  • shear stress
  • trabecular meshwork

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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