Purpose: The analysis of gene expression in idiopathic epiretinal membranes (iERMs) may help elucidate ERM formation and its pathology. Here, we conducted a case-control study, in order to determine the expression levels of cytokines and other genes in eyes with macular hole (MH) or iERM. Methods: Twenty eyes, obtained from seven male and 13 female patients, were included in the study. The average age of the study subjects was 69.1 ± 7.67 years, and 15 eyes had iERM, while five eyes had MH. Irrigation solution samples were collected during vitrectomy, centrifuged, and the levels of cytokine and other mRNAs in the sediment were assessed using real-time PCR. The expression level of 11 cytokine genes, four transcription factor genes, two cytoskeletal genes, and genes encoding two extracellular matrix proteins in eyes with MH or iERM were determined and compared. Results: The expression levels of interleukin 6 (IL6), tumor growth factor B2 (TGFB2), vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA), chemokine C-X-C motif ligand 1 (CXCL1), v-rel avian reticuloendotheliosis viral oncogene homolog A (RELA), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and tenascin C (TNC) were significantly higher in eyes with iERM than in eyes with MH. The expression of these genes was not associated with the preoperative visual acuity of the investigated patients. Conclusions: The obtained results indicate that real-time PCR analysis of irrigation solution samples collected during vitrectomy can help assess the expression levels of several genes, and that iERM is associated with the expression of pro-inflammatory genes and the genes expressed during angiogenesis and wound healing process (IL6, TGFB2, VEGFA, CXCL1, RELA, GFAP, and TNC).
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