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Kirthana Senthil, Haihan Jiao, Laura E. Downie, Holly R. Chinnery; Altered Corneal Epithelial Dendritic Cell Morphology and Phenotype Following Acute Exposure to Hyperosmolar Saline. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2021;62(2):38. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.62.2.38.
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The purpose of this study was to assess the morphological and phenotypic responses of corneal epithelial dendritic cells (DCs) to acute topical hyperosmolar stress, given a pathogenic role for tear hyperosmolarity in dry eye disease (DED).
C57BL/6J mice were anesthetized and received 350 mOsm/L (physiological; n = 5 mice), 450 mOsm/L (n = 6), or 600 mOsm/L (n = 6) saline on a randomly assigned eye. Corneas were harvested 2 hours later. Immunofluorescent staining was performed using CD45, CD86, and CD68 antibodies to investigate DC morphology (density, viability, field area, circularity, and dendritic complexity) and immunological phenotype. Flow cytometry was used to confirm CD86 and CD68 expression in CD11c+ DCs, using C57BL/6J mice that received topical applications of 350 mOsm/L, 450 mOsm/L, or 600 mOsm/L (n = 5 per group) bilaterally for 2 hours.
Following exposure to 450 mOsm/L topical saline for 2 hours, DCs in the central and peripheral cornea were larger (field area: Pcentral = 0.005, Pperipheral = 0.037; circularity: Pcentral = 0.026, and Pperipheral = 0.013) and had higher expression of CD86 compared with 350 mOsm/L controls (immunofluorescence: P < 0.0001; flow cytometry: P = 0.0058). After application of 600 mOsm/L saline, DC morphology was unchanged, although the percentage of fragmented DCs, and phenotypic expression of CD86 (immunofluorescence: P < 0.0001; and flow cytometry: P = 0.003) and CD68 (immunofluorescence: P = 0.024) were higher compared to 350 mOsm/L controls.
Short-term exposure to mild hyperosmolar saline (450 mOsm/L) induced morphological and phenotypic maturation in corneal epithelial DCs. More severe hyperosmolar insult (600 mOsm/L) for 2 hours appeared toxic to these cells. These data suggest that hyperosmolar conditions activate corneal DCs, which may have implications for understanding DC activation in DED.
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