Purpose: Severe ocular allergic diseases are characterized by pronounced conjunctival inflammation triggered by T helper 2 (Th2) cells and corneal epithelial damage induced by eosinophils. To examine the role of alarmins released by damaged corneal epithelial cells in tissue eosinophilia, we investigated the effects of a supernatant derived from necrotic human corneal epithelial (HCE) cells on expression of the chemokine CCL11 (eotaxin) and the adhesion molecule VCAM-1 in human corneal fibroblasts.
Methods: An alarmin preparation was obtained as the material released from HCE cells after three cycles of freezing and thawing. CCL11 released into culture medium and cell surface expression of VCAM-1 were measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, and the amounts of CCL11 and VCAM-1 mRNAs were quantitated by reverse transcription and real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis. Signaling by the transcription factor NF-κB was evaluated by immunoblot and immunofluorescence analyses.
Results: The combination of the necrotic HCE cell supernatant and either interleukin (IL)-4 or IL-13 induced synergistic increases in CCL11 release, VCAM-1 expression, and the abundance of CCL11 and VCAM-1 mRNAs in corneal fibroblasts. The necrotic HCE cell supernatant also induced NF-κB activation in corneal fibroblasts, whereas an inhibitor of NF-κB and IL-1 receptor antagonist each attenuated CCL11 release induced by the alarmin preparation and either IL-4 or IL-13.
Conclusions: Alarmins including IL-1 released from necrotic corneal epithelial cells cooperate with Th2 cytokines to induce CCL11 production and VCAM-1 expression in corneal fibroblasts, and may thereby play an important role in tissue eosinophilia associated with ocular allergic diseases.
Keywords: adhesion molecule; alarmin; allergy; chemokine; corneal fibroblasts.