Objective: To investigate the protective effects of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-1 and -2 gene knockout (KO) on the corneal epithelial response to desiccating stress.
Methods: The C57BL/6, JNK1KO, and JNK2KO mice were subjected to desiccating stress (DS) for 5 days. The effects of DS on the corneal epithelium were evaluated by measuring corneal smoothness and permeability. Expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP)-1, MMP-9, and cornified envelope protein precursors (small proline-rich protein [SPRR]-1a, SPRR-2a, and involucrin) in the corneal epithelia was evaluated by immunostaining and real-time polymerase chain reaction. Collagenase and gelatinase activity in corneal sections as measured with in situ fluorescent assays.
Results: The JNK2KO mice had smoother corneal surfaces and less corneal barrier disruption in response to DS than JNK1KO mice and C57BL/6 wild-type control mice. The DS increased levels of MMP-1, MMP-9, SPRR-1a, SPRR-2a, involucrin immunoreactivity, and mRNA transcripts in the corneal epithelium of JNK1KO and C57BL/6 mice, but not in JNK2KO mice. Knockout of JNK2 prevented DS-induced increase in gelatinase and collagenase activity in the cornea.
Conclusion: The JNK2 protein appears to have an essential role in desiccation-induced corneal epithelial disease by stimulating production of MMP-1, MMP-9, and cornified envelope precursors. Clinical Relevance The JNK2 protein could be a novel therapeutic target in dry eye disease.