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Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2013 Aug;251(8):1945-53. doi: 10.1007/s00417-013-2369-5. Epub 2013 May 16.

Osmoprotective effects of supplemental epidermal growth factor in an ex vivo multilayered human conjunctival model under hyperosmotic stress.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Chungbuk National University College of Medicine, Cheongju, South Korea.



To analyze the effects of supplemental epidermal growth factor (EGF) and the roles of inflammatory cytokines (interleukin [IL]-6) in an ex vivo dry-eye model under hyperosmotic stress using a multilayered culture of human conjunctival epithelial cells (HCECs).


Multilayered cultures of HCECs were exposed to hyperosmotic stress (400 mOsm/L) for 24 h in addition to 0.5 ng/mL EGF (low-EGF group) or 25 ng/mL EGF (high-EGF group). Apoptosis was analyzed using the TUNEL assay. Cell proliferation was measured using the [3H]-thymidine incorporation assay. The expression of IL-6, EGF, EGF receptor (EGFR), and phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (p-ERK) was measured by western blot analysis. The secretion of IL-6 was measured using ELISA. Western blot analysis was also performed using antibodies against cleaved caspase-3.


The percentage of apoptotic cells was lower in the high-EGF group (6.7%) than in the low-EGF group (10.3%). The high-EGF group demonstrated increased proliferation (323.7 counts/min in the low-EGF group vs 649.1 counts/min in the high-EGF group). EGF induced higher phosphor-EGFR expression and upregulated p-ERK in HCECs. In addition, EGF significantly decreased the secretion of IL-6 and cleaved caspase-3 in HCECs.


The level of IL-6 was increased in the ex vivo HCEC dry-eye model that was under hyperosmotic stress. Supplemental EGF reduces the level of IL-6, decreases apoptosis, and increases proliferation. These findings indicate that EGF has potential as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of dry eyes.

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