Age-related changes in the meibomian gland

Exp Eye Res. 2009 Dec;89(6):1021-7. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2009.08.013. Epub 2009 Sep 4.


The purpose of this study was to characterize the age-related changes of the mouse meibomian gland. Eyelids from adult C57Bl/6 mice at 2, 6, 12 and 24 months of age were stained with specific antibodies against peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) to identify differentiating meibocytes, Oil Red O (ORO) to identify lipid, Ki67 nuclear antigen to identify cycling cells, B-lymphocyte-induced maturation protein-1 (Blimp1) to identify potential stem cells and CD45 to identify immune cells. Meibomian glands from younger mice (2 and 6 months) showed cytoplasmic and perinuclear staining with anti-PPARgamma antibodies with abundant ORO staining of small, intracellular lipid droplets. Meibomian glands from older mice (12 and 24 months) showed only nuclear PPARgamma localization with less ORO staining and significantly reduced acinar tissue (p < 0.04). Acini of older mice also showed significantly reduced (p < 0.004) numbers of Ki67 stained nuclei. While Blimp1 appeared to diffusely stain the superficial ductal epithelium, isolated cells were occasionally stained within the meibomian gland duct and acini of older mice that also stained with CD45 antibodies, suggesting the presence of infiltrating plasmacytoid cells. These findings suggest that there is altered PPARgamma receptor signaling in older mice that may underlie changes in cell cycle entry/proliferation, lipid synthesis and gland atrophy during aging. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that mouse meibomian glands undergo age-related changes similar to those identified in humans and may be used as a model for age-related meibomian gland dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / metabolism
  • Lipogenesis / physiology
  • Meibomian Glands / cytology
  • Meibomian Glands / immunology
  • Meibomian Glands / physiology*
  • Mice
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism
  • Positive Regulatory Domain I-Binding Factor 1
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Eye Proteins
  • PPAR gamma
  • Prdm1 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors
  • Positive Regulatory Domain I-Binding Factor 1
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens
  • Ptprc protein, mouse