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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2019 Aug 1;60(10):3669-3679. doi: 10.1167/iovs.19-26983.

Induction of Fibroblast Senescence During Mouse Corneal Wound Healing.

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Medical College, Qingdao University, Qingdao, China.
State Key Laboratory Cultivation Base, Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Shandong Eye Institute, Shandong First Medical University & Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences, Qingdao, China.
School of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Jinan-Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences, Jinan, China.
Department of Integrative Medical Biology and Department of Clinical Sciences, Ophthalmology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.



To investigate the presence and role of fibroblast senescence in the dynamic process of corneal wound healing involving stromal cell apoptosis, proliferation, and differentiation.


An in vivo corneal wound healing model was performed using epithelial debridement in C57BL/6 mice. The corneas were stained using TUNEL, Ki67, and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) as markers of apoptosis, proliferation, and myofibroblastic differentiation, respectively. Cellular senescence was confirmed by senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-β-gal) staining and P16Ink4a expression. Mitogenic response and gene expression were compared among normal fibroblasts, H2O2-induced senescent fibroblasts, and TGF-β-induced myofibroblasts in vitro. The senescence was further detected in mouse models of corneal scarring, alkali burn, and penetrating keratoplasty (PKP).


The apoptosis and proliferation of corneal stromal cells were found to peak at 4 and 24 hours after epithelial debridement. Positive staining of SA-β-gal was observed clearly in the anterior stromal cells at 3 to 5 days. The senescent cells displayed P16Ink4a+ vimentin+ α-SMA+, representing the major origin of activated corneal resident fibroblasts. Compared with normal fibroblasts and TGF-β-induced myofibroblasts, H2O2-induced senescent fibroblasts showed a nonfibrogenic phenotype, including a reduced response to growth factor basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) or platelet-derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB), increased matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)1/3/13 expression, and decreased fibronectin and collagen I expression. Moreover, cellular senescence was commonly found in the mouse corneal scarring, alkali burn, and PKP models.


Corneal epithelial debridement induced the senescence of corneal fibroblasts after apoptosis and proliferation. The senescent cells displayed a nonfibrogenic phenotype and may be involved in the self-limitation of corneal fibrosis.


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