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Exp Eye Res. 2008 Nov;87(5):478-86. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.08.013. Epub 2008 Sep 6.

BALB/c and C57BL6 mouse strains vary in their ability to heal corneal epithelial debridement wounds.

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Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology, The George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20037, USA.


Genetically engineered mice are usually produced on a mixed genetic background and can be derived from several mouse strains including 129SvJ, C57BL6, and BALB/c. To determine whether differences in recurrent corneal epithelial erosions (RCEEs), corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency (CESCD), and cell migration rate vary between two different mouse strains (BALB/c and C57BL6), 8-week mice were subjected to 1.5 (small) or 2.8mm (large) manual debridement wounds and allowed to heal for 4 weeks. Syndecan-1 (sdc-1) null mice backcrossed seven generations onto a BALB/c genetic background were also included in the RCEE and CESCD studies to permit comparisons between genotypes within a single strain. After sacrifice, corneas were assessed for the presence of recurrent erosions; no fewer than 15 corneas were used for each strain or genotype studied. Data show that the frequency of recurrent erosions after small wounds was 81+/-9% in the C57BL6 mice, 73+/-2% in the BALB/c mice, and 32+/-6% in sdc-1 null mice. Neither strain developed CESCD after small wounds. The frequency of erosions after large wounds was greater (88+/-8%) in the C57BL6 mice compared to BALB/c (60+/-2%), and sdc-1 null mice (32+/-5%). Four weeks after the large wounds, fixed, flat mounted corneas were assessed for evidence of CESCD with antibodies against the conjunctival keratin K8 and the goblet cell marker, the mucin Muc5AC. The frequency of CESCD 4 weeks after the large wounds was significantly greater in the C57BL6 mice than in the BALB/c or sdc-1 null mice. To assess cell migration rates, corneas were subjected to 1.5mm wounds and allowed to heal for 12, 15, 18, 21, and 24h. After sacrifice, corneas were stained with Richardson stain (BALB/c) or propidium iodide (C57BL6) to assess reepithelialization rates. While reepithelialization rates were similar for the early times after wounding, by 24h the C57BL6 corneas had healed faster: 16 of 30 corneas from the C57BL6 mice were closed compared to 9 of 30 of the BALB/c wounds. BALB/c corneas appeared larger overall compared to C57BL6 corneas; measurements of the overall mass of the enucleated eyes and diameters of the flat-mounted corneas confirmed that C57BL6 eyes and corneas were 6.8% and 4.4% smaller respectively than those of BALB/c mice even though the masses of the two mouse strains at 8 weeks of age were identical. Using BrdU to label dividing cells, we found that 18 h after wounding, C57BL6 and BALB/c corneal epithelia showed similar numbers of proliferating cells. To determine if the enhanced corneal epithelial cell migration rate seen in the C57BL6 mice was specific to the cornea, we conducted time-lapse studies to assess random cell migration rates in vitro using primary cultures of mouse epidermal keratinocytes. Consistent with the in vivo data, epidermal keratinocytes derived from BALB/c mice migrated 60% slower than C57BL6 cells. These data prove that strain-specific differences in cell migration rate in vivo are present in the cornea and are accompanied by differences in the frequencies of recurrent erosions and corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency.

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