Comparative influence of differentiation and proliferation on gene expression in human meibomian gland epithelial cells

Date Published:

2021 Apr


We recently discovered that by changing environmental signals, differentiated immortalized human meibomian gland epithelial cells (IHMGECs) de-differentiate into proliferating cells. We also discovered that following exposure to appropriate stimuli, these proliferative cells re-differentiate into differentiated IHMGECs. We hypothesize that this plasticity of differentiated and proliferative IHMGECs is paralleled by very significant alterations in cellular gene expression. To begin to test this hypothesis, we compared the gene expression patterns of IHMGECs during differentiation and proliferation. IHMGECs were cultured for four days in either differentiating or proliferating media. After four days of culture, cells were processed for the analysis of gene expression by using Illumina BeadChips and bioinformatic software. Our study identified significant differences in the expression of more than 9200 genes in differentiated and proliferative IHMGECs. Differentiation was associated with significant increases in the expression of specific genes (e.g. S100 calcium binding protein P; 7,194,386-fold upregulation) and numerous ontologies (e.g. 83 biological process [bp] ontologies with ≥100 genes were upregulated), such as those related to development, transport and lysosomes. Proliferation also led to a significant rise in specific gene expressions (e.g. cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide; 859,100-fold upregulation) and many ontologies (115 biological process [bp] ontologies with ≥100 genes were upregulated), with most of the highly significant ontologies related to cell cycle (z scores > 13.9). Our findings demonstrate that gene expression in differentiated and proliferative IHMGECs is extremely different. These results may have significant implications for the regeneration of HMGECs and the reversal of MG dropout in MG dysfunction.

Last updated on 05/01/2021