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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2018 Oct 1;59(12):4986-4997. doi: 10.1167/iovs.18-25067.

Lens Epithelial Cells Initiate an Inflammatory Response Following Cataract Surgery.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, United States.



Lens epithelial cell (LEC) conversion to myofibroblast is responsible for fibrotic cataract surgery complications including posterior capsular opacification. While transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signaling is important, the mechanisms by which the TGFβ pathway is activated post cataract surgery (PCS) are not well understood.


RNA-seq was performed on LECs obtained from a mouse cataract surgery model at the time of surgery and 24 hours later. Bioinformatic analysis was performed with iPathwayGuide. Expression dynamics were determined by immunofluorescence.


The LEC transcriptome is massively altered by 24 hours PCS. The differentially expressed genes included those important for lens biology, and fibrotic markers. However, the most dramatic changes were in the expression of genes regulating the innate immune response, with the top three altered genes exhibiting greater than 1000-fold upregulation. Immunolocalization revealed that CXCL1, S100a9, CSF3, COX-2, CCL2, LCN2, and HMOX1 protein levels upregulate in LECs between 1 hour and 6 hours PCS and peak at 24 hours PCS, while their levels sharply attenuate by 3 days PCS. This massive upregulation of known inflammatory mediators precedes the infiltration of neutrophils into the eye at 18 hours PCS, the upregulation of canonical TGFβ signaling at 48 hours PCS, and the infiltration of macrophages at 3 days PCS.


These data demonstrate that LECs produce proinflammatory cytokines immediately following lens injury that could drive postsurgical flare, and suggest that inflammation may be a major player in the onset of lens-associated fibrotic disease PCS.

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