September 2016
Volume 57, Issue 12
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Up-regulation and expression pattern of genes during embryonic corneal innervation
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Carolina Zapater i Morales
    Integrative Physiology & Pathobiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • Thomas Linsenmayer
    Integrative Physiology & Pathobiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • James Kenneth Kubilus
    Integrative Physiology & Pathobiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Carolina Zapater i Morales, None; Thomas Linsenmayer, None; James Kubilus, None
  • Footnotes
    Support  NIH Grant R01 EY023569
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science September 2016, Vol.57, 5723. doi:
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      Carolina Zapater i Morales, Thomas Linsenmayer, James Kenneth Kubilus; Up-regulation and expression pattern of genes during embryonic corneal innervation. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(12):5723.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Purpose : Corneal innervation is necessary for the perception of pain and for the overall maintenance of the cornea; therefore, loss of corneal nerves can lead to loss of sensation that in turn may result in damage to the cornea.
Little is known about the molecular context involved in the growth of sensory nerves and their synergy with corneal cells during development. The purpose of our project is to investigate the molecular interactions between innervation and the developing cornea through the release of trophic factors, with the goal of understanding the function of corneal nerves in both healthy and damaged corneas.
Previous studies have shown that innervation results in changes in gene expression in the cells of the innervated tissue via nerve-derived signaling molecules. Here, we have performed in situ hybridization of mRNA of several candidate genes during development in the chicken embryo, in order to identify how the pattern of expression of those specific genes is influenced by corneal innervation.

Methods : Candidate genes were determined through comparison of mRNA expression profiles of the corneal epithelial cells at age embryonic day 9 (E9) to embryonic day 14 (E14) in the chicken embryo.
Anterior eyes were collected from E9 through E14. In situ hybridization was performed on sectioned tissues.

Results : Previous work has show that corneal innervation begins on E9 and is complete by E13. Therefore, we selected 16 candidate genes that are up-regulated from 2 fold to 250 fold (p-value < 0.00837) based on their mRNA expression profile in the later stage of development (E14), and thus are likely to have been influenced by the innervation process.
Next, we identified these candidate genes’ expression patterns and how they changed during the corneal innervation process. We observed that the expression of several genes is localized within a subset of corneal epithelial cells that is situated towards the apical surface. These time-course experiments demonstrate an association between the expression of certain candidate genes in the corneal epithelium and the process of corneal innervation.

Conclusions : This study demonstrates that changes in corneal gene expression coincide with the process of innervation, suggesting that these processes influence each other. However, further studies will be needed in order to elucidate the function of these genes in the developing cornea and the mechanism by which they are regulated.

This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2016 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Seattle, Wash., May 1-5, 2016.

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