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Exp Eye Res. 2003 Dec;77(6):653-64.

Temporal and spatial expression of matrix metalloproteinases during wound healing of human corneal tissue.

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  • 1Epithelial Repair and Regeneration Group, Wound Healing Research Unit, Division of Pathology, Institute of Ophthalmology, Bath Street, London EC1V 9EL, UK. j.daniels@ucl.ac.uk


Our understanding of MMP expression during corneal repair has previously relied upon animal models, isolated human biopsy specimens and cell culture studies. The aim of this study was to determine the temporal and spatial expression of matrix metalloproteinases following wounding of cultured human corneal tissue. Human corneas were cultured and cut into six pieces. The epithelium was removed with a corneal brush. The tissue was then re-cultured and tissue pieces were fixed up to 7 days post-wounding. Matrix metalloproteinases were detected by in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry. Intracellular laminin-5, a marker of migratory epithelial cells, was located immunohistologically. In the time scale studied tissue series from nine corneas achieved coverage of the stroma with epithelial cells and partial repair of damaged basement membrane, demonstrated by the Periodic acid-Schiff reaction and haematoxylin and eosin counter-staining. By day 3, migrating epithelial cells and stromal cells beneath the wounded area expressed collagenase-1 (MMP-1). Stromelysin-1 (MMP-3) was expressed only by fibroblast-like stromal cells. Stromelysin-2 (MMP-10) was detected in migrating epithelial cells and remained when the stroma was surrounded by a monolayer of epithelial cells. By day 7, development of multi-layered epithelium around the tissue coincided with cessation of MMP expression in both epithelial and stromal cells, except for MMP-9, which remained in epithelial basal cells. Tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase-1 was mainly associated with stromal cells and was reduced upon formation of a multi-layered epithelium. This study demonstrates matrix metalloproteinase expression in epithelial and fibroblast-like cells following wounding of human corneal tissue in culture where the cells remain in contact with their natural matrices.

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