Adjunctive Thymosin Beta-4 Treatment Influences MΦ Effector Cell Function to Improve Disease Outcome in Pseudomonas aeruginosa-Induced Keratitis

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 13;22(20):11016. doi: 10.3390/ijms222011016.


Our previous work has shown that topical thymosin beta 4 (Tβ4) as an adjunct to ciprofloxacin treatment reduces inflammatory mediators and inflammatory cell infiltrates (neutrophils/PMN and macrophages/MΦ) while enhancing bacterial killing and wound healing pathway activation in an experimental model of P. aeruginosa-induced keratitis. This study aimed to mechanistically examine how Tβ4 influences MΦ function in particular, leading to reduced inflammation and enhanced host defense following P. aeruginosa-induced infection of the cornea. Flow cytometry was conducted to profile the phenotype of infiltrating MΦ after infection, while generation of reactive nitrogen species and markers of efferocytosis were detected to assess functional activity. In vitro studies were performed utilizing RAW 264.7 cells to verify and extend the in vivo findings. Tβ4 treatment decreases MΦ infiltration and regulates the activation state in response to infected corneas. MΦ functional data demonstrated that the adjunctive Tβ4 treatment group significantly downregulated reactive nitrogen species (RNS) production and efferocytotic activity. In addition, the in vitro studies showed that both Tβ4 alone and adjunctive Tβ4 treatment influenced MΦ cellular function following LPS stimulation. Collectively, these data provide further evidence that adjunctive Tβ4 + ciprofloxacin treatment offers a more efficacious option for treating bacterial keratitis. Not only does the adjunctive therapy address both the infectious pathogen and corneal wound healing response, but it also influences MΦ infiltration, activation, and function, as revealed by the current study.

Keywords: MΦ; RNS; Tβ4; efferocytosis; immunoregulation; keratitis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciprofloxacin / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / complications*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / immunology
  • Female
  • Inflammation
  • Keratitis / drug therapy*
  • Keratitis / etiology
  • Keratitis / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pseudomonas Infections / complications*
  • Pseudomonas Infections / immunology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Thymosin / therapeutic use*


  • thymosin beta(4)
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Thymosin