Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and their receptors have been associated with homeostasis and wound healing in the cornea. The purpose of this study was to examine the expression of the messenger RNAs for these growth factors and receptors in a wounded series of mouse corneas using in situ hybridization. In situ hybridization was performed with 3H-labeled riboprobes on unwounded corneas and corneas at 30 minutes, 4, 12, 24, 48 and 72 hr, and 7 days after epithelial scrape wounds in Balb/C mice. Qualitative and semi-quantitative analyses were performed. Expression of HGF, KGF and EGF mRNAs in keratocytes in the unwounded cornea was low. EGF mRNA was also expressed in unwounded corneal epithelium. Following wounding, however, these growth factor mRNAs were markedly upregulated in keratocytes. EGF mRNA expression in the epithelium appeared unaffected by wounding. At seven days after wounding and several days following closure of the epithelial defect, HGF mRNA and KGF mRNA were still expressed at higher levels in keratocytes compared with unwounded corneas. No difference in expression of HGF or KGF mRNAs between limbal, peripheral corneal, or central corneal keratocytes was noted in the unwounded cornea, KGF receptor mRNA was prominently expressed throughout the unwounded corneal epithelium. HGF receptor mRNA and EGF receptor mRNAs were expressed at low levels in unwounded cornea epithelium. Following scrape injury, expression of HGF receptor mRNA and KGF receptor mRNA were markedly upregulated in the corneal epithelium, while no significant increase in EGF receptor mRNA expression was noted. These studies suggest a prominent role for HGF and KGF in modulating corneal epithelial wound healing following injury. Less prominent changes in EGF mRNA and EGF receptor mRNA in the corneal epithelium following wounding may suggest that EGF has more of a role in homeostasis in the mouse corneal epithelium.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.