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Isabel Y. Moreno, Arian Parsaie, Tarsis F. Gesteira, Vivien J. Coulson-Thomas; Characterization of the Limbal Epithelial Stem Cell Niche. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2023;64(13):48. https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.64.13.48.
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Limbal epithelial stem cells (LESCs) reside within a LSC niche (LSCN). We recently identified that hyaluronan (HA) is a major constituent of the LSCN, and that HA is necessary for maintaining LESCs in the “stem cell” state, both in vitro and in vivo. Herein, we characterized the LSCN to identify key components of the HA-specific LSCN.
The cornea and limbal rim were dissected from mouse corneas, subjected to mRNA extraction, and sequenced using a NextSeq 500 (Illumina) and data processed using CLC Genomics Workbench 20 (Qiagen) and the STRING database to identify key components of the LSCN. Their expression was confirmed by real-time PCR, Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, the differential expression of key compounds in different corneal cell types were determined with single-cell RNA sequencing.
We identified that the hyaladherins inter-alpha-inhibitor (IαI), TSG-6 and versican are highly expressed in the limbus. Specifically, HA/HC complexes are present in the LSCN, in the stroma underlying the limbal epithelium, and surrounding the limbal vasculature. For IαI, heavy chains 5 and 2 (HC5 and HC2) were found to be the most highly expressed HCs in the mouse and human limbus and were associate with HA-forming HA/HC-specific matrices.
The LSCN contains HA/HC complexes, which have been previously correlated with stem cell niches. The identification of HA/HC complexes in the LSCN could serve as a new therapeutic avenue for treating corneal pathology. Additionally, HA/HC complexes could be used as a substrate for culturing LESCs before LESC transplantation.
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