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Exp Eye Res. 2004 Feb;78(2):257-74.

Comparison of morphological and functional characteristics of primary-cultured human conjunctival epithelium and of Wong-Kilbourne derivative of Chang conjunctival cell line.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology National Hospital of Quinze-Vingts, EA3123, University Paris VI, Paris, France.



To analyze the relevance of a human conjunctival cell line in a study of conjunctival epithelium. We investigated and compared the effects of IFNgamma and TNFalpha in a primary culture of human conjunctiva and in a human conjunctival cell line.


A primary-cultured human conjunctival epithelium and a human conjunctival cell line (Chang cells) were treated for 72 hr with 20, 200, 400 and 600 U ml(-1) IFNgamma or with 1100 and 11,000 U ml(-1) TNFalpha. Then, the expression of HLA DR, CD40, CD44, CD63, CD80, CD86, Fas receptor, E-cadherin, ICAM-1, MUC1, cytokeratins and vimentin were investigated by flow cytometry. Cell morphology was studied with phalloidin staining. Apoptosis was detected by flow cytometry with Annexin V and via cell cycle analysis.


The primary culture of human conjunctival epithelium expressed cytokeratin K4, non-keratinized squamous epithelial marker. Chang cells presented a more dedifferentiated phenotype and were cytokeratin K4 negative. In primary-cultured cells, IFNgamma (600 U ml(-1)) induced only a low level of apoptosis and a significant upregulation of most tested proteins such as HLA DR, Fas, ICAM-1, CD40 and CD63. In the Chang cell line, IFNgamma induced a significant level of apoptosis at concentrations of 200, 400 and 600 U ml(-1). HLA DR and CD63 were induced at lower levels than in primary-cultured cells. Other proteins were modified in a similar manner after IFNgamma treatment in both systems. In the primary-cultured cells, TNFalpha induced an important upregulation of ICAM-1, Fas and CD40 whereas CD44 and CD63 were significantly decreased. Conversely, only a very weak alteration of CD63 and ICAM-1 was observed in the Chang cell line after TNFalpha treatment.


A primary culture of a human conjunctival epithelium demonstrated well-defined epithelial features. TNFalpha and IFNgamma, two inflammatory cytokines, induced different effects in both cellular systems, in a primary-cultured conjunctival epithelium and a human conjunctival cell line. Inflammation-related molecules were highly upregulated in the primary culture and, to a lesser extent, in the Chang cell line. Thus, the Chang cell line differs in certain features from a primary culture of human conjunctival epithelium, a fact which emphasizes the complexity of interpretation of in vitro data and this should be taken into consideration in in vitro studies of human conjunctival epithelium.

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