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Hyo Kyung Lee, Kyoung Woo Kim, Jin Suk Ryu, Hyun Jeong Jeong, Sang-Mok Lee, Mee Kum Kim; Bilateral Effect of the Unilateral Corneal Nerve Cut on Both Ocular Surface and Lacrimal Gland. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(1):430-441. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.18-26051.
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This study investigated the effect of a unilateral cut of the corneal nerve on the bilateral ocular surface and tear secretory function.
Seven-week-old female BALB/c mice were divided into control and nerve-cutting (NC) groups (n = 60). The left cornea was partially incised with a 2-mm circular trephine through the upper half of the stromal layer. Lissamine green corneal staining and tear volume measurements were conducted, and corneal whole-mount staining using class III β-tubulin antibody was performed to assess corneal nerves. Flow cytometric analyses for dendritic cells (DCs), CD4+/CD8+ and regulatory T cells and ELISA for neuropeptides were performed.
The grading of corneal staining increased in the NC group, while the tear volume decreased over the 4 weeks. The nerve density decreased in bilateral corneas over 2 weeks. At day 14, CD11b+ or CD11c+ DCs and the mature DCs expressing CD86 or MHCII increased in bilateral cornea/conjunctiva. At day 28, CD11c+CD86hi, CD11c+MHCIIhi, Th17 and IFN-γ–secreting CD8+ T cells highly increased in bilateral draining lymph nodes. CD4+CD25hiFoxp3hi and CD8+CD25hiFoxp3hi regulatory T cells notably increased in the spleen. In ELISA, neuropeptide Y, calcitonin gene-related peptide, and vasoactive intestinal peptide were generally suppressed in the extraorbital lacrimal glands at day14.
The unilateral corneal nerve severing resulted in activation of the immune cells on the ocular surface and dysregulated lacrimal secretion bilaterally through the bidirectional neuronal signals. It suggests that the unilateral corneal nerve damage may alter immune homeostasis and mechanistically participate in the development of bilateral inflammatory disorders such as dry eye.
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