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Curr Eye Res. 2007 Jul-Aug;32(7-8):595-609.

Ocular surface expression and in vitro activity of antimicrobial peptides.

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College of Optometry, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77204-2020, USA.



Human ocular surface epithelia express four antimicrobial peptides (APs): beta -defensin (hBD) 1-3 and LL-37. Here the expression of additional APs (hBD 4-6, HE2beta 1; histatin-1, -3; liver expressed antimicrobial peptide-1, -2; macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-3alpha, and thymosin (T)beta -4) was sought and activity against common ocular pathogens studied.


AP expression was determined in human corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells (HCEC, HCjEC) by RT-PCR and in corneal sections by immunostaining. Antimicrobial assays were performed to assess peptide (hBD 1-3, LL-37, MIP-3alpha, and Tbeta 4) activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA), Staphylococcus aureus (SA), and Staphylococcus epidermidis (SE) in the presence of NaCl or tears.


HCEC and HCjEC expressed MIP-3alpha and Tbeta 4. hBD 1-3, MIP-3alpha, and Tbeta 4 showed activity against PA. hBD-3 had potent activity against SA and SE, whereas hBD-2, MIP-3alpha and Tbeta 4 had moderate activity and hBD-1 had none. NaCl markedly attenuated, and tears almost completely inhibited the activity of hBD 1-2 and Tbeta 4, but not that of hBD-3.


The ocular surface epithelia additionally express MIP-3alpha and Tbeta 4 which have moderate antimicrobial activity. The current data support a role for hBD-3 as an antimicrobial peptide in vivo, but call in to question the effectiveness of some other APs. However, further study is required to conclusively elucidate the physiological role of each AP.

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