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Br J Pharmacol. 1997 Feb;120(4):547-52.

The NK1 receptor and its participation in the synergistic enhancement of corneal epithelial migration by substance P and insulin-like growth factor-1.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Yamaguchi University School of Medicine, Japan.


1. We have previously shown that substance P (SP) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) act synergistically to enhance the migration of rabbit corneal epithelial cells in an organ culture model. The present study was designed to identify the epithelial cell SP receptor that participates in this synergistic effect. 2. Rabbit corneal blocks were incubated for 24 h, then the length of the path of epithelial migration was measured. Reagents tried in the TC-199 culture medium, in the presence or absence of IGF-1, were: SP, agonists of tachykinin receptors NK1, NK2 or NK3 and antagonists of tachykinin receptors NK1 or NK2. 3. The binding characteristics of SP receptors were examined in rabbit cultured corneal epithelial cells by binding assays with [125I]-SP in the presence or absence of excess unlabelled SP or ligands of NK1, NK2 or NK3 receptors. 4. As was demonstrated previously, SP and IGF-1 stimulated epithelial migration when they were added to the culture medium together, but individually they had no effect. NK1 agonists had the same synergistic effect with IGF-1 as did SP, but the NK2 and NK3 agonists did not. Furthermore, the NK1 antagonist abolished the synergistic effect of SP and IGF-1, but the NK2 antagonist had no effect. 5. SP bound specifically to rabbit cultured corneal epithelial cells. The binding affinity was 0.44 nM and there were 2.43 x 10(4) binding sites per cell. The NK1 ligand competed, in a dose-dependent fashion, with the binding of SP to corneal epithelial cells, but neither the NK2 nor NK3 ligand affected binding. 6. We conclude that the SP receptor in rabbit corneal epithelial cells is NK1 and that this receptor participates in the synergistic enhancement of corneal epithelial migration by SP and IGF-1. The precise mechanism(s) of this interaction requires more study. These findings imply that both neural and humoral factors are essential for the maintenance and healing of corneal epithelium.

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