Purpose: To investigate the effects of IL-13 on goblet cell proliferation, differentiation, and expression of mucin and immunomodulatory genes.
Methods: Explants were excised from the conjunctiva of young C57BL/6 mice. Cultures received 200 μL per week of either Keratinocyte media (KSFM) or KSFM supplemented with 10 ng/mL IL-13 and were incubated for 3 (D3), 7 (D7), or 14 (D14) days. Subsequently, cell proliferation was assessed or cultures were immunostained, collected for dot blot, or for reverse transcription (RT) and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) or for RT-PCR gene array.
Results: The cultured conjunctival epithelium expressed goblet cell associated keratin 7 and mucins MUC5AC and MUC2 and when stimulated with IL-13 showed increased proliferation at D3 and D7 (P < 0.05) compared with control. MUC5AC expression was increased in the IL-13-treated group at D3 and D14 (P < 0.05). IL-13-treated cultures showed increased chemokine ligand 26 (CCL26), chloride channel calcium activated channel 3 (CLCA3), fas ligand (FasL), and Relm-β at D7. All conjunctival cultures expressed MUC2, and its expression was decreased at D3 (P < 0.05) and increased at D14 (P < 0.05) with IL-13 treatment.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated that conjunctival goblet cells are IL-13 responsive cells that produce factors known to maintain epithelial barrier, stimulate mucin production, and modulate immune response in nonocular mucosa when treated with IL-13. The functional significance of IL-13-stimulated factors remains to be determined.