The Ocular Surface Glycocalyx and its Alteration in Dry Eye Disease: A Review

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2018 Nov 1;59(14):DES157-DES162. doi: 10.1167/iovs.17-23756.


Many studies have revealed that transmembrane mucins, large glycoproteins with heavily glycosylated glycans, are essential for maintaining ocular surface epithelium lubrication and wettability. Recent reports indicate that transmembrane mucins and galectin-3, a chimera type of galectin that binds β-galactoside in the glycan, play a crucial role in maintaining the epithelial glycocalyx barrier. This review summarizes current evidence regarding the role of galectin-3, the role of the three major transmembrane mucins (i.e., MUC1, MUC4, and MUC16), in the maintenance of ocular surface wettability and transcellular barrier. Pathological mechanisms of glycocalyx barrier disruption and epithelial surface wettability decreases in dry eye disease are also summarized. Lastly, new ophthalmic drugs that target transmembrane mucin are described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CA-125 Antigen / physiology
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Galectin 3 / physiology
  • Glycocalyx / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Mucin-1 / physiology
  • Mucin-4 / physiology
  • Wettability


  • CA-125 Antigen
  • Galectin 3
  • LGALS3 protein, human
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • MUC16 protein, human
  • MUC4 protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mucin-1
  • Mucin-4