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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Aug 17;53(9):5632-40. doi: 10.1167/iovs.12-9547.

Expression of toll-like receptor 4 contributes to corneal inflammation in experimental dry eye disease.

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Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



To investigate the corneal expression of toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 and determine its contribution to the immunopathogenesis of dry eye disease (DED).


Seven to 8-week-old female C57BL/6 mice were housed in a controlled environment chamber and administered scopolamine to induce experimental DED. Mice received intravenous TLR4 inhibitor (Eritoran) to block systemic TLR4-mediated activity. The expression of TLR4 by the corneal epithelium and stroma was evaluated using real-time polymerase chain reaction and flow cytometry. Corneal fluorescein staining (CFS) was performed to evaluate clinical disease severity. The corneal expression of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, TNF, and CCL2), corneal infiltration of CD11b(+) antigen-presenting cells, and lymph node frequency of mature MHC-II(hi) CD11b(+) cells were assessed.


The epithelial cells of normal corneas expressed TLR4 intracellularly; however, DED significantly increased the cell surface expression of TLR4. Similarly, flow cytometric analysis of stromal cells revealed a significant increase in the expression of TLR4 proteins by DED-induced corneas as compared with normal corneas. DED increased the mRNA expression of TLR4 in corneal stromal cells, but not epithelial cells. TLR4 inhibition decreased the severity of CFS and significantly reduced the mRNA expression of IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF. Furthermore, TLR4 inhibition significantly reduced the corneal infiltration of CD11b(+) cells and the lymph node frequency of MHC-II(hi) CD11b(+) cells.


These results suggest that DED increases the corneal expression of TLR4 and that TLR4 participates in the inflammatory response to ocular surface desiccating stress.

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