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Ana J. Chucair-Elliott, Hem R. Gurung, Meghan M. Carr, Daniel J. J. Carr; Colony Stimulating Factor-1 Receptor Expressing Cells Infiltrating the Cornea Control Corneal Nerve Degeneration in Response to HSV-1 Infection. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(11):4670-4682. doi: 10.1167/iovs.17-22159.
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Herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) is a leading cause of neurotrophic keratitis, characterized by decreased or absent corneal sensation due to damage to the sensory corneal innervation. We previously reported the elicited immune response to infection contributes to the mechanism of corneal nerve regression/damage during acute HSV-1 infection. Our aim is to further establish the involvement of infiltrated macrophages in the mechanism of nerve loss upon infection.
Macrophage Fas-Induced Apoptosis (MAFIA) transgenic C57BL/6 mice were systemically treated with AP20187 dimerizer or vehicle (VEH), and their corneas, lymph nodes, and blood were assessed for CD45+CD11b+GFP+ cell depletion by flow cytometry (FC). Mice were ocularly infected with HSV-1 or left uninfected. At 2, 4, and/or 6 days post infection (PI), corneas were assessed for sensitivity and harvested for FC, nerve structure by immunohistochemistry, viral content by plaque assay, soluble factor content by suspension array, and activation of signaling pathways by Western blot analysis. C57BL6 mice were used to compare to the MAFIA mouse model.
MAFIA mice treated with AP20187 had efficient depletion of CD45+CD11b+GFP+ cells in the tissues analyzed. The reduction of CD45+CD11b+GFP+ cells recruited to the infected corneas of AP20187-treated mice correlated with preservation of corneal nerve structure and function, decreased protein concentration of inflammatory cytokines, and decreased STAT3 activation despite no changes in viral content in the cornea compared to VEH-treated animals.
Our results suggest infiltrated macrophages are early effectors in the nerve regression following HSV-1 infection. We propose the neurodegeneration mechanism involves macrophages, local up-regulation of IL-6, and activation of STAT3.
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