Dynamic Changes in the Gene Expression Patterns and Lipid Profiles in the Developing and Maturing Meibomian Glands

Igor A. Butovich, Amber Wilkerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Meibomian glands (MGs) and their holocrine secretion—meibum—play crucial roles in the physiology of the eye, providing protection from environmental factors and desiccation, among other functions. Importantly, aging was implicated in the deterioration of the morphology and functions of MGs, and the quantity and quality of meibum they produce, leading to a loss of its protective properties, while the meibum of young individuals and experimental animals provide ample protection to the eye. Currently, the molecular mechanisms of meibum biosynthesis (termed meibogenesis) are not fully understood. To characterize the physiological changes in developing and maturing MGs, we studied the lipidomes and transcriptomes of mouse MGs ranging from newborns to adults. The results revealed a gradual increase in the critical genes of meibogenesis (such as Elovl3, Elovl4, Awat2, and Soat1, among others) that positively correlated with the biosynthesis of their respective lipid products. The MG transcriptomes of young and adult mice were also analyzed using single-cell RNA sequencing. These experiments revealed the existence of multiple unique populations of MG cells (meibocytes, epithelial cells, and others) with specific combinations of genes that encode meibogenesis-related proteins, and identified clusters and subclusters of cells that were tentatively classified as meibocytes at different stages of differentiation/maturation, or their progenitor cells. A hypothesis was formulated that these cells may produce different types of lipids, and contribute differentially to the Meibomian lipidome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7884
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • cholesteryl ester
  • development
  • lipidomics
  • meibogenesis
  • meibomian glands
  • meibum
  • organogenesis
  • single-cell RNA sequencing
  • transcriptomics
  • wax ester

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Dynamic Changes in the Gene Expression Patterns and Lipid Profiles in the Developing and Maturing Meibomian Glands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this