Purpose: Corneal endothelium in vivo is arrested in G1, the phase of the cell cycle that prepares cells for DNA synthesis. In many cell types, transforming factor (TGF)-beta inhibits proliferation by inducing G1-phase arrest. Evidence indicates that corneal endothelial cells synthesize mRNA for TGF-beta1 and are also bathed in aqueous humor that contains TGF-beta2 (mainly in a latent form). As such, this cytokine may maintain the corneal endothelium in a G1-phase-arrested state in vivo. The purpose of these studies was to determine the effect of exogenous TGF-beta2 and TGF-beta2 in aqueous humor on DNA synthesis in cultured corneal endothelial cells.
Methods: Rat corneal endothelial cells were grown in explant culture and identified by morphology and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction using primers for specific corneal cell markers. Subconfluent cells were synchronized in the G0 phase (quiescence) by serum starvation for 24 hours. Serum was then added to the cells in the presence or absence of exogenous TGF-beta2 or activated rat aqueous humor. [3H]Thymidine was added, and radioactivity was measured at various time points to detect DNA synthesis. Preincubation of exogenous TGF-beta2 or activated rat aqueous humor with neutralizing antibody was used to test for cytokine specificity.
Results: A linear increase in [3H]thymidine incorporation began approximately 16 hours after serum addition, and peak incorporation occurred at approximately 24 hours. Exposure of cells to serum plus TGF-beta2 suppressed [3H]thymidine incorporation in a dose-dependent manner at concentrations ranging from 5 pg/ml to 5 ng/ml. [3H]Thymidine incorporation was also suppressed in cells exposed to serum plus rat aqueous humor diluted 1:10. Neutralizing antibody reversed the effects of both exogenous TGF-beta2 and aqueous humor.
Conclusions: Exogenous TGF-beta2 and TGF-beta2 in aqueous humor suppress S-phase entry of rat corneal endothelial cells. These results suggest that this cytokine in aqueous humor could help maintain the corneal endothelium in a G1-phase-arrested state in vivo.