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Exp Eye Res. 1997 Sep;65(3):321-9.

Synergistic effect of substance P with epidermal growth factor on epithelial migration in rabbit cornea.

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


In order to investigate the role of neural regulation in corneal epithelial healing, we examined the effect of substance P (SP) on corneal epithelial migration using an organ culture system of rabbit corneas. We investigated the synergistic effects of SP with (1) growth factors: epidermal growth factor (EGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), and transforming growth factor-beta(TGF-beta); (2) extracellular matrix proteins: fibronectin, vitronectin, laminin, and collagen type IV; and (3) cytokines: interleukin-1alpha (IL-1alpha), IL-1beta, and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Rabbit corneal blocks were cultured in the absence or presence of various reagents for 24 hr. The corneal blocks were then fixed, dehydrated, embedded in paraffin and stained by hematoxylin-eosin, and the length of the path of epithelial migration was measured. The addition of SP alone, at concentrations up to 50 microg ml-1, did not affect epithelial migration. EGF, fibronectin, vitronectin, collagen type IV, and IL-6 stimulated epithelial migration, but bFGF, TGF-beta, laminin, IL-1alpha, and IL-1betadid not. The stimulatory effect of EGF on the epithelial migration was enhanced by the presence of SP. This synergistic effect of SP and EGF on corneal epithelial migration was abolished by the addition of an SP antagonist or enkephalinase. Other neurotransmitters (vasoactive intestinal peptide, calcitonin gene-related peptide, acetylcholine chloride, norepinephrine, serotonin) and tachykinins (neurokinin A, neurokinin B, kassinin, eledoisin, physalaemin) were examined, but none exhibited a synergistic effect with EGF. Interestingly, EGF alone stimulated the incorporation of 3H-thymidine into corneal epithelial cells, but the addition of SP with EGF did not enhance this effect. These results demonstrate that SP enhanced the EGF stimulation of corneal epithelial migration in vitro in a specific manner, suggesting a possible role of SP as a modulator of epithelial wound healing.

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