Ocular surface APCs are necessary for autoreactive T cell-mediated experimental autoimmune lacrimal keratoconjunctivitis

J Immunol. 2011 Oct 1;187(7):3653-62. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1101442. Epub 2011 Aug 31.


As specialized sentinels between the innate and adaptive immune response, APCs are essential for activation of Ag-specific lymphocytes, pathogen clearance, and generation of immunological memory. The process is tightly regulated; however, excessive or atypical stimuli may ignite activation of APCs in a way that allows self-Ag presentation to autoreactive T cells in the context of the necessary costimulatory signals, ultimately resulting in autoimmunity. Studies in both animal models and patients suggest that dry eye is a chronic CD4(+) T cell-mediated ocular surface autoimmune-based inflammatory disease. Using a desiccating stress-induced mouse model of dry eye, we establish the fundamental role of APCs for both the generation and maintenance of ocular-specific autoreactive CD4(+) T cells. Subconjunctival administration of liposome-encapsulated clodronate efficiently diminished resident ocular surface APCs, inhibited the generation of autoreactive CD4(+) T cells, and blocked their ability to cause disease. APC-dependent CD4(+) T cell activation required intact draining cervical lymph nodes, as cervical lymphadenectomy also inhibited CD4(+) T cell-mediated dry eye disease. In addition, local depletion of peripheral conjunctival APCs blocked the ability of dry eye-specific CD4(+) T cells to accumulate within the ocular surface tissues, suggesting that fully primed and targeted dry eye-specific CD4(+) T cells require secondary activation by resident ocular surface APCs for maintenance and effector function. These data demonstrate that APCs are necessary for the initiation and development of experimental dry eye and support the standing hypothesis that dry eye is a self-Ag-driven autoimmune disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Separation
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Autoantigens