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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Feb 2024 - 9 Feb 2024

2024 Feb 05

Am J Pathol


TRPV1 channels facilitate axonal degeneration of corneal sensory nerves in dry eye.


Pizzano M, Vereertbrugghen A, Cernutto A, Sabbione F, Keitelman IA, Shiromizu CM, Aguilar DV, Fuentes F, Giordano MN, Trevani AS, Galletti JG


Corneal nerve impairment contributes significantly to dry eye disease (DED) symptoms and is thought to be secondary to corneal epithelial damage. Transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV1) channels abound in corneal nerve fibers and respond to inflammation-derived ligands, which increase in DED. TRPV1 overactivation promotes axonal degeneration in vitro but whether it participates in DED-associated corneal nerve dysfunction is unknown. To explore this, DED was surgically induced in wild-type and TRPV1-knockout (Trpv1KO) mice, which developed comparable corneal epithelial damage and reduced tear secretion. However, corneal mechanosensitivity decreased progressively only in wild-type DED mice. Sensitivity to capsaicin (TRPV1 agonist) increased in wild-type DED mice, and consistently, only this strain displayed DED-induced pain signs. Wild-type DED mice exhibited nerve degeneration throughout the corneal epithelium whereas Trpv1KO DED mice only developed a reduction in the most superficial nerve endings that failed to propagate to the deeper subbasal corneal nerves. Pharmacological TRPV1 blockade reproduced these findings in wild-type DED mice while CD4+ T cells from both strains were equally pathogenic when transferred, ruling out a T cell-mediated effect of TRPV1 deficiency. The data show that ocular desiccation triggers superficial corneal nerve damage in DED but proximal propagation of axonal degeneration requires TRPV1 expression. Local inflammation sensitizes TRPV1 channels, which increases ocular pain. Thus, ocular TRPV1 overactivation drives DED-associated corneal nerve impairment.