Purpose: To correlate tear fluorescein clearance with interleukin-1alpha (IL-1alpha) concentration and gelatinase B (matrix metalloproteinase [MMP]-9) activity in the tear fluid of patients with ocular rosacea and normal control subjects.
Methods: Gelatinase activity was evaluated by gelatin zymography in tear fluid obtained from 13 patients with ocular rosacea (including 1 patient with recurrent epithelial erosion, 2 with recurrent peripheral corneal infiltrates and vascularization, and 2 patients with epithelial basement membrane dystrophy) and 13 normal subjects with normal aqueous tear production and no irritation symptoms. Tear fluorescein clearance was evaluated by measuring fluorescence in tear fluid collected from the inferior meniscus 15 minutes after instillation of 5 microl of 2% Na-fluorescein with a CytoFluor II fluorometer. Pro-MMP-9 and IL-1alpha concentrations in the tear fluid were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Results: Compared with normal control subjects, patients with ocular rosacea had a greater delay of tear fluorescein clearance (P < 0.001), a higher tear IL-1alpha concentration (P < 0.001), and a greater pro-gelatinase B (92 kDa) activity (P < 0.001) in their tear fluid. The 84-kDa active form of gelatinase B was observed in 46% of the rosacea tear samples and none of the controls. The zymographic results were confirmed by ELISA that showed a significantly greater concentration of pro-MMP-9 (92 kDa) in the tear fluid of rosacea patients than controls. Delayed tear clearance was correlated with elevated tear IL-1alpha concentration (p=0.67, P < 0.001) and increased tear gelatinase B activity (p=0.84, P < 0.001). Tear IL-1alpha concentration was correlated with tear gelatinase B activity (p=0.58, P < 0.002).
Conclusions: Gelatinase B (MMP-9) activity is greater in patients with ocular rosacea than in normal eyes. The majority of this activity is due to 92-kDa proform of this enzyme. This activity is correlated with delayed tear clearance and tear fluid concentration of interleukin-1alpha, a proinflammatory cytokine that has been reported to stimulate gelatinase B production. Elevated gelatinase B activity in ocular rosacea may be involved in the pathogenesis of the irritation symptoms, recurrent epithelial erosions, vascularization, and epithelial basement membrane dystrophy that develops in the corneas of patients with this condition.