DC electric fields induce rapid directional migration in cultured human corneal epithelial cells

Exp Eye Res. 2000 May;70(5):667-73. doi: 10.1006/exer.2000.0830.


After an epithelium is wounded, multiple soluble and extracellular matrix-associated signals induce a repair response. An often-overlooked signal is the endogenous electrical field established in the vicinity of the wound immediately upon disruption of epithelial integrity. Previous studies have detected lateral electric fields of approximately 42 mV mm-1 near bovine corneal wounds. In addition, electric fields on the order of 100-200 mV mm-1 have been measured lateral to wounds in mammalian epidermis. Here we report the migratory response of human corneal epithelial cells to DC electric fields of similar, physiologic magnitude. Our findings demonstrate that in a 100 mV mm-1 DC field, corneal epithelial cells demonstrate directed migration towards the cathode. The migratory speed and distances traversed by cultured human corneal epithelial cells is remarkably similar to those of cultured skin-derived keratinocytes under similar conditions; however, corneal epithelial cells demonstrate a more rapid directional response to the field than keratinocytes. These findings suggest that endogenous, wound-induced electric fields present in the cornea play an important role in human corneal wound healing, by orienting the directional response of migratory cells so that they efficiently re-epithelialize the wounded area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electricity*
  • Epithelium, Corneal / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / physiology
  • Male
  • Wound Healing / physiology*