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J Clin Invest. 2014 Jan;124(1):385-97. doi: 10.1172/JCI71488. Epub 2013 Dec 9.

LRIG1 inhibits STAT3-dependent inflammation to maintain corneal homeostasis.

Abstract

Corneal integrity and transparency are indispensable for good vision. Cornea homeostasis is entirely dependent upon corneal stem cells, which are required for complex wound-healing processes that restore corneal integrity following epithelial damage. Here, we found that leucine-rich repeats and immunoglobulin-like domains 1 (LRIG1) is highly expressed in the human holoclone-type corneal epithelial stem cell population and sporadically expressed in the basal cells of ocular-surface epithelium. In murine models, LRIG1 regulated corneal epithelial cell fate during wound repair. Deletion of Lrig1 resulted in impaired stem cell recruitment following injury and promoted a cell-fate switch from transparent epithelium to keratinized skin-like epidermis, which led to corneal blindness. In addition, we determined that LRIG1 is a negative regulator of the STAT3-dependent inflammatory pathway. Inhibition of STAT3 in corneas of Lrig1-/- mice rescued pathological phenotypes and prevented corneal opacity. Additionally, transgenic mice that expressed a constitutively active form of STAT3 in the corneal epithelium had abnormal features, including corneal plaques and neovascularization similar to that found in Lrig1-/- mice. Bone marrow chimera experiments indicated that LRIG1 also coordinates the function of bone marrow-derived inflammatory cells. Together, our data indicate that LRIG1 orchestrates corneal-tissue transparency and cell fate during repair, and identify LRIG1 as a key regulator of tissue homeostasis.

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