Purpose: To evaluate the effect of corneal epithelial wounding on lacrimal gland expression of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), and epidermal growth factor (EGF) in the rabbit model.
Methods: Rabbits had corneal epithelial scrape injuries, and the lacrimal gland was removed at different times after wounding. HGF, KGF, and EGF mRNA expression was examined by quantitative RNase protection assay. HGF, KGF, and EGF proteins were detected in rabbit lacrimal tissue using immunoprecipitation and western blot analysis.
Results: HGF mRNA and EGF mRNA were significantly increased in rabbit lacrimal gland tissue within 8 hours after corneal epithelial injury. The increase in KGF mRNA expression was small and reached significance I clay after corneal injury. Lacrimal gland expression peaked at 3 days after wounding for each growth factor mRNA, the same day, on average, that the epithelial defect healed. After the peak increase in expression, there was a progressive decline in expression of each growth factor mRNA, but production was still increased compared with prewound levels. HGF protein, KGF protein, and EGF proteins were detected in rabbit lacrimal gland tissue.
Conclusions: Levels of HGF, KGF, and EGF mRNAs increase in rabbit lacrimal gland tissue in response to corneal epithelial wounding. The results of this study are consistent with the existence of a cornea-nervous system-lacrimal gland regulatory loop modulating expression of these growth factor mRNAs. The lacrimal gland is a likely source of increased HGF and EGF proteins detected in tears in previous studies.