Human cornea proteome: identification and quantitation of the proteins of the three main layers including epithelium, stroma, and endothelium

J Proteome Res. 2012 Aug 3;11(8):4231-9. doi: 10.1021/pr300358k. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


Diseases of the cornea are common and refer to conditions like infections, injuries and genetic defects. Morphologically, many corneal diseases affect only certain layers of the cornea and separate analysis of the individual layers is therefore of interest to explore the basic molecular mechanisms involved in corneal health and disease. In this study, the three main layers including, the epithelium, stroma and endothelium of healthy human corneas were isolated. Prior to analysis by LC-MS/MS the proteins from the different layers were either (i) separated by SDS-PAGE followed by in-gel trypsinization, (ii) in-solution digested without prior protein separation or, (iii) in-solution digested followed by cation exchange chromatography. A total of 3250 unique Swiss-Prot annotated proteins were identified in human corneas, 2737 in the epithelium, 1679 in the stroma, and 880 in the endothelial layer. Of these, 1787 proteins have not previously been identified in the human cornea by mass spectrometry. In total, 771 proteins were quantified, 157 based on in-solution digestion and 770 based on SDS-PAGE separation followed by in-gel digestion of excised gel pieces. Protein analysis showed that many of the identified proteins are plasma proteins involved in defense responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Ion Exchange
  • Collagen / isolation & purification
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Cornea / cytology
  • Cornea / metabolism
  • Corneal Stroma / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Corneal / metabolism*
  • Epithelium, Corneal / metabolism*
  • Eye Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratins / isolation & purification
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Proteome / isolation & purification
  • Proteome / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Blood Proteins
  • Eye Proteins
  • Proteome
  • Keratins
  • Collagen