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Papers of the Week

2022 Feb 28

Exp Eye Res

Evidence for a phenotypic switch in corneal afferents after lacrimal gland excision.


Sullivan C, Lee J, Bushey W, Demers D, Dinsdale S, Lowe K, Olmega J, Meng ID
Exp Eye Res. 2022 Feb 28:109005.
PMID: 35240196.


Dry eye is a common cause of ocular pain. The aim of this study was to investigate corneal innervation, ongoing pain, and alterations in corneal afferent phenotypes in a mouse model of severe aqueous tear deficiency. Chronic dry eye was produced by ipsilateral excision of the extra- and intraorbital lacrimal glands in male and female mice. Tearing was measured using a phenol thread and corneal epithelial damage assessed using fluorescein. Changes in corneal ongoing ocular pain was evaluated by measuring palpebral opening ratio. Corneal axons were visualized using Nav1.8-Cre;tdTomato reporter mice. Immunohistochemistry was performed to characterize somal expression of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), the capsaicin sensitive transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), and activating transcription factor-3 (ATF-3) in tracer labeled corneal neurons following lacrimal gland excision (LGE). LGE decreased tearing, created severe epithelial damage, and decreased palpebral opening, indicative of chronic ocular irritation, over the 28-day observation period. Corneal axon terminals exhibited an acute decrease in density after LGE, followed by a regenerative process over the course of 28 days that was greater in male animals. Corneal neurons expressing CGRP, TRPV1, and ATF3 increased following injury, corresponding to axonal injury and regeneration processes observed during the same period. CGRP and TRPV1 expression was notably increased in IB4-positive cells following LGE. These results indicate that dry eye-induced damage to corneal afferents can result in alterations in IB4-positive neurons that may enhance neuroprotective mechanisms to create resiliency after chronic injury.