The Proteins of Keratoconus: a Literature Review Exploring Their Contribution to the Pathophysiology of the Disease

Loukovitis E., Kozeis N., Gatzioufas Z., Kozei A., Tsotridou E., Stoila M., Koronis S., Sfakianakis K., Tranos P.Balidis M., Zachariadis Z., Mikropoulos D., Anogeianakis G., Katsanos A., Konstas A.



Keratoconus (KC) is a complex, genetically heterogeneous multifactorial degenerative disorder characterized by corneal ectasia and thinning. Its incidence is approximately 1/2000-1/50,000 in the general population. KC is associated with moderate to high myopia and irregular astigmatism, resulting in severe visual impairment. KC structural abnormalities primarily relate to the weakening of the corneal collagen. Their understanding is crucial and could contribute to effective management of the disease, such as with the aid of corneal cross-linking (CXL). The present article critically reviews the proteins involved in the pathophysiology of KC, with particular emphasis on the characteristics of collagen that pertain to CXL.


PubMed, MEDLINE, Google Scholar and GeneCards databases were screened for relevant articles published in English between January 2006 and June 2018. Keyword combinations of the words “keratoconus,” “risk factor(s),” “genetics,” “genes,” “genetic association(s),” “proteins”, “collagen” and “cornea” were used. In total, 272 articles were retrieved, reviewed and selected, with greater weight placed on more recently published evidence. Based on the reviewed literature, an attempt was made to tabulate the up- and down-regulation of genes involved in KC and their protein products and to delineate the mechanisms involved in CXL.


A total of 117 proteins and protein classes have been implicated in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of KC. These have been tabulated in seven distinct tables according to their gene coding, their biochemistry and their metabolic control.


The pathogenesis and pathophysiology of KC remain enigmatic. Emerging evidence has improved our understanding of the molecular characteristics of KC and could further improve the success rate of CXL therapies.


CXL; Collagen; Corneal biomechanical characteristics; Corneal cross-linking; Ectasia; Keratoconus proteins; Ophthalmology

PMID:  31363996,  PMCID:  PMC6822850,  DOI:  10.1007/s12325-019-01026-0

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Source: Pubmed