October 1980
Volume 19, Issue 10
Articles  |   October 1980
Evidence for a role of the plasminogen activator--plasmin system in corneal ulceration.
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science October 1980, Vol.19, 1204-1221. doi:
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      M Berman, R Leary, J Gage; Evidence for a role of the plasminogen activator--plasmin system in corneal ulceration.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1980;19(10):1204-1221.

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

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Plasminogen is present in the cornea andcan be activated to plasmin by plasminogen activator. Plasmin is able, in turn, to activate latent collagenase. This system could initiate and perpetuate the collagen degradation of corneal ulceration. This report details evidence for such a system in the cornea. Plasmin has been found to activate latent collagenase from organ cultures of ulcerating rabbit corneas and from fibroblast cultures derived from such corneas. As in the case of activation by trypsin, activation by plasmin results in the conversion of the 40,000 MW latent form to an active species of 23,000 MW. Explants of normal or alkali-burned, ulcerating corneas demonstrated plasminogen-dependent lysis of fibrin clots; frozen sections of such corneas demonstrated that lysis begins in the superficial stroma near the periphery of the cornea. Multiply freeze-thawed ulcerating corneas, but not normal corneas, showed initial lysis, not peripherally but at the ulcer region containing polymorphonuclear leukocytes. The fact that the peripheral lytic pattern existed in corneas that were obtained from eyes prefrozen in liquid nitrogen before excision of the corneas would suggest that plasminogen activator is normally contained in cells in vivo and is not made only in response to tissue injury. There was no correlation between the location of blood vessels or the presence of the corneal endothelium and the plasminogen-dependent lysis. Plasminogen activator from the ulcerating cornea and from fibroblasts was characterized by sodium dodecyl sulfate--gel electrophoresis of its cleavage products of plasminogen. The activator cleaves plasminogen into heavy- and light-chain fragments similar to those produced from plasminogen by urokinase. Plasminogen activator activity was quantitated by a new assay that restricts diffusion of the enzyme to one dimension into a narrow bore tube. The addition of plasminogen daily to cultures of ulcerating corneas resulted in earlier rises of plasminogen activator, collagenase, and collagen degradation fragments in the culture media. Although total plasminogen activator levels were not increased by the addition of plasminogen to culture, levels of both collagenase and solubilized collagen were approximately doubled. It is concluded that the plasminogen activator--plasmin system might play an important role in the destruction of stromal matrix in corneal ulceration.


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