Aged Lens Epithelial Cells Suppress Proliferation and Epithelial–Mesenchymal Transition-Relevance for Posterior Capsule Opacification

Zongbo Wei, Pasley Gordon, Caili Hao, Jingru Huangfu, Emily Fan, Xiang Zhang, Hong Yan, Xingjun Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Posterior capsule opacification (PCO) is a frequent complication after cataract surgery, and advanced PCO requires YAG laser (Nd: YAG) capsulotomy, which often gives rise to more complications. Lens epithelial cell (LEC) proliferation and transformation (i.e., epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT)) are two critical elements in PCO initiation and progression pathogenesis. While PCO marginally impacts aged cataract surgery patients, PCO incidences are exceptionally high in infants and children undergoing cataract surgery. The gene expression of lens epithelial cell aging and its role in the discrepancy of PCO prevalence between young and older people have not been fully studied. Here, we conducted a comprehensive differentially expressed gene (DEG) analysis of a cell aging model by comparing the early and late passage FHL124 lens epithelial cells (LECs). In vitro, TGFβ2, cell treatment, and in vivo mouse cataract surgical models were used to validate our findings. We found that aged LECs decelerated rates of cell proliferation accompanied by dysregulation of cellular immune response and cell stress response. Surprisingly, we found that LECs systematically downregulated epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT)-promoting genes. The protein expression of several EMT hallmark genes, e.g., fibronectin, αSMA, and cadherin 11, were gradually decreased during LECs aging. We then confirmed these findings in vitro and found that aged LECs markedly alleviated TGFβ2-mediated EMT. Importantly, we explicitly confirmed the in vitro findings from the in vivo mouse cataract surgery studies. We propose that both the high proliferation rate and EMT-enriched young LECs phenotypic characteristics contribute to unusually high PCO incidence in infants and children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2001
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • EMT
  • PCO
  • aging
  • cataract surgery
  • cataracts
  • epithelial–mesenchymal transition
  • lens
  • posterior capsule opacification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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