Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) narrows Schlemm’s canal (SC), theoretically increasing luminal shear stress. Using engineered adenoviruses containing a functional fragment of the shear-responsive endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) promoter, we tested effects of shear stress and elevated flow rate on reporter expression in vitro and ex vivo. Cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and SC cells were transduced with adenovirus containing eNOS promoter driving secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) or green fluorescent protein (GFP) and subjected to shear stress. In parallel, human anterior segments were perfused under controlled flow. After delivering adenoviruses to the SC lumen by retroperfusion, the flow rate in one anterior segment of pair was increased to double pressure. In response to high shear stress, HUVECs and SC cells expressed more SEAP and GFP than control. Similarly, human anterior segments perfused at higher flow rates released significantly more nitrites and SEAP into perfusion effluent, and SC cells expressed increased GFP near collector channel ostia compared to control. These data establish that engineered adenoviruses have the capacity to quantify and localize shear stress experienced by endothelial cells. This is the first in situ demonstration of shear-mediated SC mechanobiology as a key IOP-sensing mechanism necessary for IOP homeostasis.
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