Objectives: IL-2ralpha (CD25)(-/-) mice develop autoimmunity and lymphoproliferative disorders, including SS-like disease. The objective of this study was to evaluate the severity of corneal epithelial disease and T-cell cytokine profile in the ocular surface tissues of CD25KO mice.
Methods: CD25KO mice were evaluated at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Corneal epithelial smoothness and corneal permeability were measured. Phenotype of infiltrating lymphocytes was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Th-1, -2 and -17 associated factors were measured by real-time PCR in cornea and conjunctiva and by Luminex immunobead assay in tears.
Results: Compared with 8-week-old wild-type (WT) mice, CD25KO mice of the same age had significantly greater corneal irregularity and a significant increase in the number of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells infiltrating the conjunctiva. CD25KO mice had significantly higher levels of IL-6, TGF-beta1, IL-23R, IL-17A, IL-17F, IL-21, CCL20, IL-10, GATA-3 and IFN-gamma mRNA transcripts in their cornea and conjunctiva than WT mice at 8 weeks. IL-17A and IL-17F mRNA transcripts peaked at 12 weeks, whereas IFN-gamma spiked at 16 weeks in CD25KO mice. Increased expression of IL-17A and IL-17F at 12 weeks in CD25KO mice was accompanied by a worsening of corneal surface parameters and an increase of CD4(+) T cell infiltrating the cornea.
Conclusions: Disruption of IL-2 signalling in CD25KO mice results in age-dependent SS-like autoimmune lacrimal-keratoconjunctivitis. A mix of Th-1 and Th-17 cytokines was detected. The peak severity of corneal epithelial disease corresponded to the peak of IL-17 expression.