The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of MIM-D3, a small molecule nerve growth factor (NGF) peptidomimetic, as a therapeutic agent in rats with scopolamine induced dry eye. NGF plays an important role in ocular surface maintenance and corneal wound healing and was recently shown to have mucin secretagogue activity in conjunctival cells. We investigated whether MIM-D3 increased glycoconjugate secretion in conjunctival cells in vitro and in rat tear fluids in vivo. Primary rat conjunctival cell cultures were treated with increasing concentrations of MIM-D3 and evaluated for glycoconjugate secretion, proliferation and MAPK1/2 activation. Glycoconjugates were quantitated in tear fluids from normal rats treated topically with increasing doses of MIM-D3 (0.4%, 1% and 2.5%). Dry eye was induced in rats by subcutaneous scopolamine treatment, administered by surgically implanted osmotic pumps for 14 or 28 days. Aqueous tear production, tear clearance, fluorescein corneal staining and tear break-up time (tBUT) were evaluated. Glycoconjugates and NGF were quantitated in the tear fluids by enzyme-linked lectin assay (ELLA) and enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA), respectively. We found that 50 μM MIM-D3 statistically significantly induced a 1.3-fold increase in glycoconjugate secretion and a 2.3-fold increase in MAPK1/2 activation without increasing proliferation from conjunctival cell cultures. Application of 2.5% MIM-D3 in normal rat eyes statistically significantly increased tear glycoconjugate concentration by 2.3-fold. In the experimental dry eye model, application of 1% MIM-D3 to rat eyes for either 1 or 17 consecutive days, followed by 1 week of no dosing produced a statistically significant decrease in corneal staining (p < 0.001), a slight increase in tBUT, and increases in tear glycoconjugates (p < 0.05) compared to vehicle. Scopolamine treatment also caused a statistically significant increase of endogenous NGF in tears (p < 0.005). We concluded that the increase in glycoconjugate concentration by the 1% MIM-D3 dose may have improved the quality and stability of the tear film, and thereby improved healing on the ocular surface in dry eye. Therefore, MIM-D3 may have therapeutic potential as a topical agent for the treatment of dry eye.
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