PURPOSE. We previously reported that applying toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands to an injured cornea induces corneal edema at 24 hours, which subsides by 1 week. We tested the hypotheses that endothelial expression of the tight-junction protein, zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1), would be altered during experimental sterile corneal inflammation and that endothelial cell density (ECD) would remain unaffected. METHODS. Anesthetized C57BL/6J mice received central 1-mm corneal abrasions followed by topical application of saline or cytosine-phosphate-guanosine oligodeoxynucleotide (CpGODN, TLR-9 agonist). At 24 hours, 1 week and 4 weeks post treatment, spectral-domain optical coherence tomography images were captured. Eyes were enucleated and processed for zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) immunofluorescent staining. Corneal flatmounts were analyzed for endothelial ZO-1 expression, cell density, polymegethism, and polymorphism. Corneal stromal inflammatory cell infiltration was evaluated at 4 weeks by immunostaining for CD45. RESULTS. Central corneal thickness (CCT) was increased in CpG-ODN treated eyes at 24 hours, had normalized by 1 week, but was again thickened by 4 weeks. In eyes with CpG-ODN, endothelial cell ZO-1 expression was reduced at 24 hours but returned to normal levels by 1 week. Endothelial cell density was not altered at 24 hours or 1 week. By 4 weeks, only CpGODN eyes showed relatively reduced ECD, as well as large numbers of CD45+ cells in the stroma. Changes to ECD correlated with CCT (r = -0.53, P < 0.01). Compared with naïve controls, more saline-and CpG-ODN-treated eyes exhibited polymegethism. CONCLUSIONS. This study provides novel insights into the interplay between endothelial cell integrity, corneal edema, and chronic stromal leukocyte activation during sterile corneal inflammation in mice.
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- Corneal endothelial cells
- Toll-like receptor