PLoS One. 2024 Jan 22;19(1):e0296928. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0296928. eCollection 2024.
Mutations in the solute linked carrier family 4 member 11 (SLC4A11) gene are associated with congenital hereditary endothelial dystrophy (CHED) and Fuchs corneal endothelial dystrophy type 4 (FECD4), both characterized by corneal endothelial cell (CEnC) dysfunction and/or cell loss leading to corneal edema and visual impairment. In this study, we characterize the impact of CHED-/FECD4-associated SLC4A11 mutations on CEnC function and SLC4A11 protein localization by generating and comparing human CEnC (hCEnC) lines expressing wild type SLC4A11 (SLC4A11WT) or mutant SLC4A11 harboring CHED-/FECD4-associated SLC4A11 mutations (SLC4A11MU). SLC4A11WT and SLC4A11MU hCEnC lines were generated to express either SLC4A11 variant 2 (V2WT and V2MU) or variant 3 (V3WT and V3MU), the two major variants expressed in ex vivo hCEnC. Functional assays were performed to assess cell barrier, proliferation, viability, migration, and NH3-induced membrane conductance. We demonstrate SLC4A11-/- and SLC4A11MU hCEnC lines exhibited increased migration rates, altered proliferation and decreased cell viability compared to SLC4A11WT hCEnC. Additionally, SLC4A11-/- hCEnC demonstrated decreased cell-substrate adhesion and membrane capacitances compared to SLC4A11WT hCEnC. Induction with 10mM NH4Cl led SLC4A11WT hCEnC to depolarize; conversely, SLC4A11-/- hCEnC hyperpolarized and the majority of SLC4A11MU hCEnC either hyperpolarized or had minimal membrane potential changes following NH4Cl induction. Immunostaining of primary hCEnC and SLC4A11WT hCEnC lines for SLC4A11 demonstrated predominately plasma membrane staining with poor or partial colocalization with mitochondrial marker COX4 within a subset of punctate subcellular structures. Overall, our findings suggest CHED-associated SLC4A11 mutations likely lead to hCEnC dysfunction, and ultimately CHED, by interfering with cell migration, proliferation, viability, membrane conductance, barrier function, and/or cell surface localization of the SLC4A11 protein in hCEnC. Additionally, based on their similar subcellular localization and exhibiting similar cell functional profiles, protein isoforms encoded by SLC4A11 variant 2 and variant 3 likely have highly overlapping functional roles in hCEnC.