Latent-transforming growth factor beta-binding protein 2 (LTBP-2) is a major component of arterial and lung tissue and of the ciliary zonule, the system of extracellular fibers that centers and suspends the lens in the eye. LTBP-2 has been implicated previously in the development of extracellular microfibrils, although its exact role remains unclear. Here, we analyzed the three-dimensional structure of the ciliary zonule in wild type mice and used a knockout model to test the contribution of LTBP-2 to zonule structure and mechanical properties. In wild types, zonular fibers had diameters of 0.5–1.0 micrometers, with an outer layer of fibrillin-1-rich microfibrils and a core of fibrillin-2-rich microfibrils. LTBP-2 was present in both layers. The absence of LTBP-2 did not affect the number of fibers, their diameters, nor their coaxial organization. However, by two months of age, LTBP-2-depleted fibers began to rupture, and by six months, a fully penetrant ectopia lentis phenotype was present, as confirmed by in vivo imaging. To determine whether the seemingly normal fibers of young mice were compromised mechanically, we compared zonule stress/strain relationships of wild type and LTBP-2-deficient mice and developed a quasi-linear viscoelastic engineering model to analyze the resulting data. In the absence of LTBP-2, the ultimate tensile strength of the zonule was reduced by about 50%, and the viscoelastic behavior of the fibers was altered significantly. We developed a harmonic oscillator model to calculate the forces generated during saccadic eye movement. Model simulations suggested that mutant fibers are prone to failure during rapid rotation of the eyeball. Together, these data indicate that LTBP-2 is necessary for the strength and longevity of zonular fibers, but not necessarily for their formation.
- Ectopia lentis
- Quasi-linear viscoelastic model
- Super-resolution microscopy