Meibum is a lipid-rich secretion that is produced by fully differentiated meibocytes in the holocrine Meibomian glands (MG) of humans and most mammals. The secretion is a part of a defense mechanism that protects the ocular surface from hazardous environmental factors, and from desiccation. Meibomian lipids that have been identified in meibum are very diverse and unique in nature. The lipid composition of meibum is different from virtually any other lipid pool found in the human body. In fact, meibum is quite different from sebum, which is the closest secretion that is produced by anatomically, physiologically, and biochemically related sebaceous glands. However, meibum of mice have been shown to closely resemble that of humans, implying similar biosynthetic mechanisms in MG of both species. By analyzing available genomic, immunohistochemical, and lipidomic data, we have envisioned a unifying network of enzymatic reactions that are responsible for biosynthesis of meibum, which we call meibogenesis. Our current theory is based on an assumption that most of the biosynthetic reactions of meibogenesis are catalyzed by known enzymes. However, the main features that make meibum unique - the ratio of identified classes of lipids, the extreme length of its components, extensive ω-hydroxylation of fatty acids and alcohols, iso- and anteiso-branching of meibomian lipids (e.g. waxes), and the presence of rather unique complex lipids with several ester bonds - make it possible that either the activity of known enzymes is altered in MG, or some unknown enzymes contribute to the processes of meibogenesis, or both. Studies are in progress to elucidate meibogenesis on molecular level.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience