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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 6;8(6):e65797. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065797. Print 2013.

Surfactant protein D contributes to ocular defense against Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a murine model of dry eye disease.

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School of Optometry, University of California, Berkeley, California, United States of America.


Dry eye disease can cause ocular surface inflammation that disrupts the corneal epithelial barrier. While dry eye patients are known to have an increased risk of corneal infection, it is not known whether there is a direct causal relationship between these two conditions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that experimentally-induced dry eye (EDE) increases susceptibility to corneal infection using a mouse model. In doing so, we also examined the role of surfactant protein D (SP-D), which we have previously shown is involved in corneal defense against infection. Scopolamine injections and fan-driven air were used to cause EDE in C57BL/6 or Black Swiss mice (wild-type and SP-D gene-knockout). Controls received PBS injections and were housed normally. After 5 or 10 days, otherwise uninjured corneas were inoculated with 10(9) cfu of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PAO1. Anesthesia was maintained for 3 h post-inoculation. Viable bacteria were quantified in ocular surface washes and corneal homogenates 6 h post-inoculation. SP-D was measured by Western immunoblot, and corneal pathology assessed from 6 h to 4 days. EDE mice showed reduced tear volumes after 5 and 10 days (each by ∼75%, p<0.001) and showed fluorescein staining (i.e. epithelial disruption). Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in corneal pathology between EDE mice and controls (∼10-14% incidence). Before bacterial inoculation, EDE mice showed elevated SP-D in ocular washes. After inoculation, fewer bacteria were recovered from ocular washes of EDE mice (<2% of controls, p = 0.0004). Furthermore, SP-D knockout mice showed a significant increase in P. aeruginosa corneal colonization under EDE conditions. Taken together, these data suggest that SP-D contributes to corneal defense against P. aeruginosa colonization and infection in EDE despite the loss of barrier function to fluorescein.

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