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Prog Histochem Cytochem. 2001;36(3):185-259.

Maintaining corneal integrity how the "window" stays clear.

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Department of Anatomy/Cell Biology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, 540 East Canfield Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


The anterior surface of the eye is composed of the cornea, conjunctiva, and the zone between the two called the limbus. The cornea must maintain optical clarity to retain good vision. However, the ocular surface is vulnerable to trauma, microbial infection, and exposure to environmental toxins. This places the cornea, especially, at risk for disruptions of the epithelial barrier and subsequent immunopathological events. Cell-cell and cell-matrix attachment junctions incorporating adhesion molecules ensure that the epithelial barrier remains intact. Protein components of the basement membrane, including laminins, are vital to the adhesion of corneal epithelial cells to the underlying stroma and function to enhance the strength of the bond between epithelium and connective tissue. Epithelial cells also play an early and crucial role in the initiation of ocular surface responses should a potentially antigenic molecule enter into deeper corneal tissues. For example, epithelial cells may produce and release cytokines such as interleukin-1 (IL-1). The delicate balance between the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) are central to mechanisms regulating dissolution of the extracellular matrix that may be a consequence of infection or wound healing. Adhesion molecules, cytokines and chemokines, and MMPs and TIMPs thus participate in the corneal response to immunologic challenge or wounding. They may also be involved in corneal pathologies associated with genetic diseases, diabetes, and vitamin A deficiency. In addition these molecules are components of cellular pathways underlying the clinical complications often observed with contact lens wear and refractive surgeries used to improve visual acuity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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