Purpose: Peptide growth factors are known accelerators of corneal wound healing, probably mediated through increased proliferation of the cells; however, information about their effect on keratocyte motility is lacking. The influence of peptide growth factors on keratocyte migratory activity was investigated, using the following growth factors: platelet derived growth factor (PDGF-BB), epidermal growth factor (EGF), acidic fibroblast growth factor (aFGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and transforming growth factor-beta-1 (TGF-beta 1).
Methods: Keratocytes were seeded on gels of type 1 collagen, growth factor added, and the cells left to migrate for 72 hours. Subsequently, the number of keratocytes at the different levels in the collagen gel was evaluated by optically sectioning the gel at 20 microns, intervals, with an inverted phase contrast microscope.
Results: PDGF, EGF and bFGF at 10 ng/ml, all increased the number of keratocytes at the different levels of the gel as compared to a non-stimulated control (p < 0.05 or p < 0.01, students t-test). TGF-beta proved to be a strong inhibitor of keratocyte migration, decreasing the number of keratocytes observed at every level in the gel (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01, students t-test), whereas no effect of IGF-I and aFGF was found. During the 72 hours of migration, no contraction of the collagen gels was observed. Autoradiography of histological sections of the gels showed that during the 72-hour period only TGF-beta and 10% fetal bovine serum induced an increase in keratocyte proliferation.
Conclusion: PDGF, EGF and bFGF increase keratocyte migration, independent of proliferation in a collagen gel invasion assay and might promote corneal wound healing, not only by increasing cell proliferation, but also through increased motility.