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Ophthalmic Res. 2014;51(4):179-86. doi: 10.1159/000357977. Epub 2014 Mar 18.

Human corneal epithelial cells produce antimicrobial peptides LL-37 and β-defensins in response to heat-killed Candida albicans.

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  • 1Tianjin Eye Hospital, Clinical College of Ophthalmology, Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin, China.



To explore the innate response of human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) exposed to fungus by producing antimicrobial peptides LL-37 and β-defensins.


Primary HCECs were treated with heat-killed Candida albicans (HKCA) at different doses (10(3)-10(6) cells/ml) for 2-48 h. The cells were subjected to total RNA extraction, reverse transcription and quantitative real-time PCR for mRNA expression. Cells treated for 48 h were used for immunofluorescent staining and ELISA.


Human LL-37 and β-defensins (hBDs) 1-4 were detected in normal HCECs. The mRNA expression of LL-37, hBD2, and hBD3 was dose-dependently induced by HKCA with their peak levels at 4 h. HKCA (10(6) cells/ml) stimulated the mRNA of LL-37, hBD2, and hBD3 4.33 ± 1.81, 3.75 ± 1.31, and 4.91 ± 1.09 fold, respectively, in HCECs. The stimulated production of LL-37, hBD2, and hBD3 by HKCA was confirmed at protein levels by immunofluorescent staining and ELISA. The protein production of LL-37, hBD2, and hBD3 significantly increased to 109.1 ± 18.2 pg/ml, 4.33 ± 1.67 ng/ml, and 296.9 ± 81.8 pg/ml, respectively, in culture medium of HCECs exposed to HKCA (10(6) cells/ml) compared to untreated HCECs.


HCECs produce antimicrobial peptides, LL-37, hBD2 and hBD3, in response to stimulation of HKCA, which suggests a novel innate immune mechanism of the ocular surface in defense against fungal invasion.

© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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