We previously reported that the time-dependent relative changes of transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) after exposing four different chemicals to a human corneal epithelium (HCE) model were well correlated to the potential of ocular irritancy. Meanwhile, we recently developed a collagen vitrigel membrane (CVM) chamber possessing a scaffold composed of high-density collagen fibrils equivalent to connective tissues in vivo as a three-dimensional culture tool. The CVM chamber is useful for biomedical assays and immunohistology using cryosections that are inappropriate to be performed using the conventional Millicell chamber with a polyethylene terephthalate membrane. In this study, we aimed to develop a new eye irritancy test (EIT) method called "Vitrigel-EIT method" that can facilitate to briefly and accurately estimate the widespread irritancy of test chemicals by applying the TEER assay system to a HCE model fabricated in the CVM chamber. HCE-T cells (a HCE-derived cell strain) were cultured in the CVM chamber for 6 days, and consequently, the Vitrigel-HCE model possessing the following characteristics of HCE in vivo was formed: six cell layers with specific protein expressions and their barrier function. Time-dependent profiles of TEER values after exposing 30 test chemicals to the HCE model were converted into the scores of three indexes (time lag, intensity, and plateau level), and each chemical was successfully classified into irritant or nonirritant category by utilizing the criteria for the indexes, resulting in the excellent correlation with Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) classification (sensitivity: 100%, specificity: 75%, accuracy: 90%). These data suggest that the widespread eye irritancy of chemicals can be predicted without false negatives by the Vitrigel-EIT method. Interestingly, the disruption of tight junctions was immunohistologically observed after exposing not only irritants but also three compounds classified as nonirritant by GHS but found positive in our Vitrigel-EIT method confirming a possible mild irritant property.
Keywords: HCE-T cells.; collagen vitrigel membrane; corneal epithelium; eye irritation test; transepithelial electrical resistance.