Purpose: To investigate the expression and cellular distribution of the tight junction-related proteins occludin, claudin and ZO-1 in human corneal epithelium.
Methods: Light and electron immunohistochemistry was used to determine tissue distribution of occludin, claudin-1 and ZO-1 in the human corneal epithelium. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction was used to reveal claudin mRNA expression in human corneal epithelium.
Results: In transverse sections, occludin and ZO-1 were localized at the apical cell-cell junctions between superficial cells in stratified corneal epithelium. Both basal and basolateral membranes of superficial cells were stained by the claudin-1 antibody, but no apical membrane staining was observed. In en face sections, claudin-1 and ZO-1 antibodies showed as bands that corresponded to the junctional complex. Claudin-1 staining of superficial cell cytoplasm was also observed. Occludin staining was seen at the junctional complex, where it was not continuous, but dotted along the cell junctions. The transcripts for claudin-1 and several other claudin isotypes, such as -2, -3, -4, -7, -9 and -14 were identified.
Conclusion: Not only occludin, but also some claudins act as integral transmembrane proteins in the corneal epithelium. ZO-1 is a component of the corneal epithelial tight junction, as it is in most epithelial cells.