Ophthalmologe (2022)

Web-based gene expression analysis-paving the way to decode healthy and diseased ocular tissue

Julian Wolf, Thabo Lapp, Thomas Reinhard, Hansjürgen Agostini, Günther Schlunck, Clemens Lange

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Background: Gene expression analysis using RNA sequencing has helped to improve the understanding of many diseases. Databases, such as the Gene Expression Omnibus database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information provide RNA sequencing raw data from various diseased tissue types but their analysis requires advanced bioinformatics skills. Therefore, specific ocular databases provide the transcriptional profiles of different ocular tissues and in addition enable intuitive web-based data analysis.
Objective: The aim of this narrative review is to provide an overview of ocular transcriptome databases and to compare them with the Human Eye Transcriptome Atlas newly established in Freiburg.
Methods: PubMed literature search.
Results: A total of nine ocular transcriptome databases focusing on different aspects were identified. The iSyTE and Express platforms specialize in gene expression during lens and retinal development in mice, whereas retina.tigem.it, Eye in a Disk, and Spectacle focus on selected ocular tissues such as the retina. Spectacle, UCSC Cell Browser and Single Cell Portal allow intuitive exploration of single cell RNA sequencing data derived from retinal, choroid, cornea, iris, trabecular meshwork and sclera specimens. The microarray profiles of a variety of healthy ocular tissues are included in the Ocular Tissue Database. The Human Eye Transcriptome Atlas provides the largest collection of different ocular tissue types, contains the highest number of ocular diseases and is characterized by a high level of quality achieved by methodological consistency.
Conclusion: Ocular transcriptome databases provide comprehensive and intuitive insights into the transcriptional profiles of a variety of healthy and diseased ocular tissues. Thus, they improve our understanding of the underlying molecular mediators, support hypothesis generation and help in the search for new diagnostic and therapeutic targets for various ocular diseases.