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Ophthalmology. 2000 Jan;107(1):180-4.

Immunohistochemical evidence for estrogen receptors in meibomian glands.

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Ophthalmology Section, M D Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.



To look for sex hormone receptor distribution in three structures contributing to the normal human tear film: the conjunctiva, the accessory lacrimal glands, and the meibomian glands.


An immunohistochemical study. TISSUES AND CONTROLS: Forty-one upper eyelid specimens were collected from 15 male and 26 female patients (age range, 1.5-85 years) during blepharoptosis surgery via posterior tarsoconjunctival mullerectomy (Fasanella-Servat or Gavaris). In addition, control sections of histologically normal breast, prostate, and skin tissue were obtained.


Immunohistochemical staining using mouse monoclonal antibodies against estrogen, progesterone, and androgen receptors was performed on all tissues and controls. Quantitation of the receptors was performed and expressed as percentage nuclear positivity. Specimens were divided into three groups based on the age of the patient: <12 years (n = 9); 18-55 years (n = 1); >55 years (n = 12).


Forty-one specimens contained conjunctiva. All were negative for estrogen, progesterone, and androgen receptors. Twenty-four specimens contained accessory lacrimal glands of Wolfring. All were negative for the three receptors. Twenty-two specimens contained meibomian glands. All were positive for estrogen receptors; one was positive for progesterone receptors and one for androgen receptors. Using Minitab statistical software (Minitab Inc. State College, PA), analysis of variation revealed no statistical difference between sexes or between age groups studied. The sebaceous glands of skin were uniformly positive for androgen receptors. Sebaceous glands of the face and scalp (3 of the 15 skin samples) were also positive for estrogen receptors.


Estrogen receptors are present in the meibomian glands of the upper eyelid. Unlike sebaceous glands elsewhere on the skin, the meibomian glands lack androgen receptors. Estrogen receptors may play a role in modulation of the lipid layer of the tear film, and their activity may be linked to meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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