Corneal epithelial wound healing

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2001 Jul;226(7):653-64. doi: 10.1177/153537020222600711.


One of the important functions of the cornea is to maintain normal vision by refracting light onto the lens and retina. This property is dependent in part on the ability of the corneal epithelium to undergo continuous renewal. Epithelial renewal is essential because it enables this tissue to act as a barrier that protects the corneal interior from becoming infected by noxious environmental agents. Furthermore, the smooth optical properties of the corneal epithelial surface are sustained through this renewal process. The rate of renewal is dependent on a highly integrated balance between the processes of corneal epithelial proliferation, differentiation, and cell death. One experimental approach to characterize these three aspects of the renewal process has been to study the kinetics and dynamics of corneal re-epithelialization in a wound-healing model. This effort has employed in vivo and in vitro studies. From such studies it is evident that the appropriate integration and coordination of corneal epithelial proliferation, adhesion, migration, and cell demise is dependent on the actions of a myriad of cytokines. Our goal here is to provide an overview into how these mediators and environmental factors elicit control of cellular proliferation, adhesion, migration, and apoptosis. To this end we review the pertinent literature dealing with the receptor and the cell signaling events that are responsible for mediating cytokine control of corneal epithelial renewal. It is our hope that a better appreciation can be obtained about the complexity of the control processes that are responsible for assuring continuous corneal epithelial renewal in health and disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement
  • Cornea / innervation
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / pharmacology
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium, Corneal / injuries
  • Epithelium, Corneal / physiology*
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology
  • Humans
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Wound Healing


  • Cytokines
  • Potassium Channels
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • ErbB Receptors