Aging is a well-recognized risk factor for dry eye. Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) has been implicated in conjunctival keratinization and goblet cell loss in dry eye. We investigated the role of IFN-γ in age-related dry eye by evaluating young (8 weeks) and aged (15 months; 15M) C57BL/6 (B6) and IFN-γKO mice. Age effects on the conjunctiva and cornea epithelium were assessed with PAS staining and corneal staining, respectively. Expression of T cell-related cytokines (IL-17A, IFN-γ), chemokines (CXCL10 and CCL20), in the ocular surface epithelium was evaluated by real time PCR. A significant decrease in filled goblet cells was noted in 15M B6 mice and this was significantly lower than age and sex-matched IFN-γKO mice. Aged male B6 had significantly higher IFN-γ, and CXCL10 mRNA in their conjunctiva than female B6 mice. Aged IFN-γKO females had significantly higher IL-17A mRNA in conjunctiva than IFN-γKO males and B6 mice. Corneal barrier dysfunction was observed in 15M female B6 and aged IFN-γKO mice of both sexes; however it was significantly higher in IFN-γKO compared to B6 mice. While there was a significant increase in IL 17A, and CCL20 in corneas of aged female B6 and IFN-γKO mice compared to males, these changes were more evident in aged female IFN-γKO group.Partial resistance of IFN-γKO mice to aging-induced goblet cell loss indicates IFN-γ is involved in the age-related decline in conjunctival goblet cells. Increased corneal IL-17A expression paralleled corneal barrier disruption in aging female of both strains. IFN-γ appears to suppress IL-17A on the ocular surface.
Keywords: Gerotarget; IL-17; aging; dry eye; goblet cells; interferon-gamma.