Activation of autophagy is one of the responses elicited by high intraocular pressure (IOP) and mechanical stretch in trabecular meshwork (TM) cells. However, the mechanosensor and the molecular mechanisms by which autophagy is induced by mechanical stretch in these or other cell types is largely unknown. Here, we have investigated the mechanosensor and downstream signaling pathway that regulate cyclic mechanical stretch (CMS)-induced autophagy in TM cells. We report that primary cilia act as a mechanosensor for CMS-induced autophagy and identified a cross-regulatory talk between AKT1 and noncanonical SMAD2/3 signaling as critical components of primary cilia-mediated activation of autophagy by mechanical stretch. Furthermore, we demonstrated the physiological significance of our findings in ex vivo perfused eyes. Removal of primary cilia disrupted the homeostatic IOP compensatory response and prevented the increase in LC3-II protein levels in response to elevated pressure challenge, strongly supporting a role of primary cilia-mediated autophagy in regulating IOP homeostasis.
autophagy, primary cilia, glaucoma, trabecular meshwork, stretching