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Mol Vis. 2007 Apr 30;13:677-91.

Prevention of posterior capsular opacification through cyclooxygenase-2 inhibition.

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  • 1Ohio State University, Veterinary Biosciences, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.



To determine if cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is upregulated when lens epithelial cells (LEC) in clinical samples of cataracts and posterior capsule opacification (PCO) undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-like changes. We also wanted to learn if inhibition of the enzymatic activity of COX-2 could prevent PCO formation.


To ensure that EMT-like changes were occurring in LEC, real-time RT-PCR was used to examine expression of EMT markers. Clinical samples of canine cataracts and PCO were examined for COX-2 expression using immunohistochemistry, western blot analysis, and real-time RT-PCR. The COX-2 inhibitors, rofecoxib and celecoxib, were used in an ex vivo model of PCO formation, and the effects on cellular migration, proliferation, and apoptosis were analyzed using immunohistochemistry and western blots. Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) expression was examined with ELISA.


Markers of EMT, such as lumican, Snail, Slug, and COX-2 were expressed in LEC. In clinical samples of cataracts and PCO, there was overexpression of COX-2 protein and mRNA. Both rofecoxib and celecoxib were effective at inhibiting PCO formation in our ex vivo model. Prevention of PCO with the COX-2 inhibitors appeared to work through decreased migration and proliferation, and increased apoptosis. Neither of the drugs had a toxic effect on confluent LEC and appeared to inhibit PCO through their pharmacologic action. Synthesis of PGE2 was inhibiting in the capsules treated with the COX-2 inhibiting drugs.


Extracapsular phacoemulsification cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure performed in human and veterinary ophthalmology. The most frequent postoperative complication is PCO. The LEC that remain adhered to the lens capsule undergo EMT-like changes, proliferate, and migrate across the posterior lens capsule causing opacities. We have shown that COX-2, a protein associated with EMT, is upregulated in canine cataracts and PCO. Inhibiting the enzymatic activity effectively prevented EMT of LEC in our ex vivo model of PCO through pharmacologic action, and not acute toxicity. These findings indicate that using COX-2 inhibitors in vivo may be an effective technique in preventing PCO.

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