The purpose of the presented investigation was to examine the efficiency of the novel carrier system Bacterial Ghosts (BGs), which are empty bacterial cell envelopes of Gram-negative bacteria to target human conjunctival epithelial cells, as well as to test the endocytic capacity of conjunctival cells after co-incubation with BGs generated from different bacterial species, and to foreclose potential cytotoxic effects caused by BGs. The efficiency of conjunctival cells to internalize BGs was investigated using the Chang conjunctival epithelial cell line and primary human conjunctiva-derived epithelial cells (HCDECs) as in vitro model. A high capacity of HCDECs to functionally internalize BGs was detected with the level of internalization depending on the type of species used for BGs generation. Detailed analysis showed no cytotoxic effect of BGs on HCDECs independently of the used bacterial species. Moreover, co-incubation with BGs did not enhance expression of both MHC class I and class II molecules by HCDECs, but increased expression of ICAM-1. The high rates of BG's internalization by HCDECs with no BG-mediated cytotoxic impact designate this carrier system to be a promising candidate for an ocular surface drug delivery system. BGs could be useful for future therapeutic ocular surface applications and eye-specific disease vaccine development including DNA transfer.
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