Background: This study aimed to characterise the composition of the pre-ocular fluid after transplantation of the autologous submandibular gland (SMG) for patients with severe dry eye.
Methods: Stimulated and unstimulated pre-ocular fluid from 15 patients (17 eyes) with a viable SMG graft ("SMG-salivary tears"), as well as normal tears and SMG saliva (20 normal subjects/20 eyes), was sampled. As global tear parameters, fern pattern analysis and SDS gel electrophoresis were performed. As specific quality parameters, total protein content, secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), lysozyme, amylase, sodium, potassium and osmolality were measured using routine laboratory methods. The flow rate of SMG-salivary tears was determined in 5 patients by means of sequential scintillography.
Results: The fern pattern of SMG-salivary tears was coarse and thus more similar to normal SMG saliva than tears. SDS gel electrophoresis of the SMG-salivary tears showed albumin and two unidentified proteins in addition to the normal tear pattern. Osmolality and total protein content of SMG-salivary tears were higher than in normal SMG saliva, but still lower than in normal tears. High activities of normal tear antibacterial proteins (SIgA, lysozyme and amylase) were detected in the salivary tears. Stimulation of the secretion did not alter the composition of SMG-salivary tears. The flow rate of SMG-salivary tears was closer to that of normal tears than normal SMG saliva.
Conclusion: Salivary tears resulting from SMG-transplantation represent condensed SMG saliva. Thus their quality is intermediate between normal tears and normal SMG saliva. High levels of secretory proteins demonstrate that the gland maintains an active function. Surgical denervation and residual tear components from the ocular surface are the most likely factors to cause the complex differences between normal SMG saliva and SMG-salivary tears. The effects of this secretion on the ocular surface are currently being evaluated in a clinical and laboratory study.