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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2004 Sep;45(9):2985-91.

CD-34 expression by cultured human keratocytes is downregulated during myofibroblast differentiation induced by TGF-beta1.

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TissueTech, Inc., Miami, Florida 33173, USA.



To establish CD34 as a cell surface marker for human keratocytes and to demonstrate its downregulation during TGF-beta1-induced myofibroblast differentiation.


Collagenase-isolated keratocytes were seeded and subcultured on plastic or amniotic membrane matrix (AM) in DMEM, with or without 10% FBS, in serum-free DMEM containing insulin-transferrin-sodium selenite (ITS) with 10, 100, and 1000 pg/mL TGF-beta1 or in DMEM with 1% FBS and 10 ng/mL TGF-beta1. Protein expression of CD34 and alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA) was measured by Western blot and immunostaining.


Keratocytes, expressing CD34 in normal human corneas, continued to express CD34 when cultured on AM in serum-containing medium and on plastic in serum-free medium, but expression was lost on plastic in serum-containing medium. In serum-containing medium, expression of CD34, but not alpha-SMA, was maintained by cells continuously passaged on AM. In contrast, cells expressed alpha-SMA without CD34 when continuously passaged on plastic. Expression of alpha-SMA by cells on plastic was downregulated without CD34 when subcultured on AM. CD34 expression by cells on AM was downregulated, whereas alpha-SMA expression was upregulated when cells were subcultured on plastic. In serum-free medium, CD34 expression was maintained by cells treated with 10 pg/mL TGF-beta1, but was lost when treated with a higher concentration on plastic for 5 days. In 1% FBS, AM-expanded keratocytes rapidly became alpha-SMA-expressing myofibroblasts if subpassaged on plastic and treated with 10 ng/mL TGF-beta1, but failed to do so if cultured on AM, even for 7 days.


These findings indicate that CD34 is expressed by human keratocytes in vivo and in vitro. Myofibroblast differentiation promoted by TGF-beta1 downregulates CD34 expression. Maintenance of CD34 expression by AM is consistent with a reported effect of AM on suppressing TGF-beta signaling.

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