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M De Saint Jean, F Brignole, A F Bringuier, A Bauchet, G Feldmann, C Baudouin; Effects of benzalkonium chloride on growth and survival of Chang conjunctival cells.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1999;40(3):619-630.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to investigate the action of benzalkonium chloride (BAC), used as a preservative in most ophthalmic topical solutions, on epithelial conjunctival cells in vitro. METHODS: A continuous human conjunctival cell line (Wong-Kilbourne derivative of Chang conjunctiva) was exposed to BAC solutions at various concentrations (0.1%-0.0001%) during a period of 10 minutes. Cells were examined before treatment and 3, 24, 48, and 72 hours later, after reexposure to normal cell culture conditions. Cell number and viability were assessed with crystal violet and 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide colorimetric assays. The expression of the apoptotic marker Apo 2.7, nuclear antigen p53, membrane proteins Fas and Fas ligand, and DNA content was studied by flow cytometry. Morphologic aspects of cell nuclei were analyzed on slides with a nucleic acid-specific dye, 4',6'-diamidino-2-phenylindole dihydrochloride. Cytoskeleton was labeled with a monoclonal anti-pancytokeratin antibody. In addition, apoptosis was measured by DNA electrophoresis assays in agarose gel. RESULTS: Cell exposure to 0.1% and 0.05% BAC induced cell lysis immediately after treatment. All cells (100%) treated with 0.01% BAC died in a delayed manner within 24 hours, with most of the characteristics of apoptosis (chromatin condensation and DNA fragmentation, reduction in cell volume, expression of the apoptotic marker Apo 2.7, and apoptotic changes in DNA content). Aliquots of 0.005%, 0.001%, 0.0005%, and 0.0001% BAC induced growth arrest and apoptotic cell death in a dose-dependent manner between 24 and 72 hours after treatment. The expressions of Fas and p53 did not vary after BAC treatment. Fas ligand was always negative. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that BAC induces cell growth arrest and death at a concentration as low as 0.0001%. The mode of BAC-induced cell death is dose-dependent. Cells die by necrosis after BAC treatment at high concentrations and by apoptosis if low concentrations of BAC are applied. This new aspect of in vitro toxicity of BAC could in part explain some ocular surface disorders observed in patients undergoing long-term topical treatments with preservative-containing drugs.
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