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      Subnormal Cytokine Profile in the Tear Fluid of Keratoconus Patients


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          Keratoconus, historically viewed as a non-inflammatory disease, is an ectatic corneal disorder associated with progressive thinning of the corneal stroma. Recently, a few inflammatory mediators have been reported to be elevated in the tear fluid of keratoconus patients. Consequently, we investigated a wide range of inflammation regulating cytokines in the tears and sera of keratoconus and control subjects. Interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, IL-17, interferon (IFN)-γ, chemokine C-C motif ligand 5 (CCL5) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α were tested in tear samples and sera of keratoconus and control individuals by multiplex immuno-bead assays. Selected cytokines were further tested by standard ELISA on pooled tear samples. All cytokines in the sera were generally low, with no significant changes between keratoconus and control subjects. However, in tear fluids, clear differences were detected between the two groups. These differences include increased IL-6, and decreased IL-12, TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-13 and CCL5 in keratoconus compared to control tear fluids. The decreases in IL-12, TNF-α and CCL5 were statistically significant, while the IL-13 decrease was statistically significant in the severe keratoconus group only. IL-17 could not be detected by multiplex immuno-bead assay, but showed an increase in keratoconus by conventional ELISA on a limited number of pooled tear samples. Our findings confirm increased IL-6, but dispute earlier reports of increased TNF-α, and suggest a cytokine imbalance in keratoconus disrupting corneal homeostasis. Moreover, an increase in IL-17 suggests tissue degenerative processes at work, contributing to the thinning and weakening of the corneal connective tissue in keratoconus.

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          Most cited references34

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          A brief history of T(H)17, the first major revision in the T(H)1/T(H)2 hypothesis of T cell-mediated tissue damage.

          For over 35 years, immunologists have divided T-helper (T(H)) cells into functional subsets. T-helper type 1 (T(H)1) cells-long thought to mediate tissue damage-might be involved in the initiation of damage, but they do not sustain or play a decisive role in many commonly studied models of autoimmunity, allergy and microbial immunity. A major role for the cytokine interleukin-17 (IL-17) has now been described in various models of immune-mediated tissue injury, including organ-specific autoimmunity in the brain, heart, synovium and intestines, allergic disorders of the lung and skin, and microbial infections of the intestines and the nervous system. A pathway named T(H)17 is now credited for causing and sustaining tissue damage in these diverse situations. The T(H)1 pathway antagonizes the T(H)17 pathway in an intricate fashion. The evolution of our understanding of the T(H)17 pathway illuminates a shift in immunologists' perspectives regarding the basis of tissue damage, where for over 20 years the role of T(H)1 cells was considered paramount.
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            Keratoconus is a bilateral noninflammatory corneal ectasia with an incidence of approximately 1 per 2,000 in the general population. It has well-described clinical signs, but early forms of the disease may go undetected unless the anterior corneal topography is studied. Early disease is now best detected with videokeratography. Classic histopathologic features include stromal thinning, iron deposition in the epithelial basement membrane, and breaks in Bowman's layer. Keratoconus is most commonly an isolated disorder, although several reports describe an association with Down syndrome, Leber's congenital amaurosis, and mitral valve prolapse. The differential diagnosis of keratoconus includes keratoglobus, pellucid marginal degeneration and Terrien's marginal degeneration. Contact lenses are the most common treatment modality. When contact lenses fail, corneal transplant is the best and most successful surgical option. Despite intensive clinical and laboratory investigation, the etiology of keratoconus remains unclear. Clinical studies provide strong indications of a major role for genes in its etiology. Videokeratography is playing an increasing role in defining the genetics of keratoconus, since early forms of the disease can be more accurately detected and potentially quantified in a reproducible manner. Laboratory studies suggest a role for degradative enzymes and proteinase inhibitors and a possible role for the interleukin-1 system in its pathogenesis, but these roles need to be more clearly defined. Genes suggested by these studies, as well as collagen genes and their regulatory products, could potentially be used as candidate genes to study patients with familial keratoconus. Such studies may provide the clues needed to enable us to better understand the underlying mechanisms that cause the corneal thinning in this disorder.
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              IL-17 disrupts corneal barrier following desiccating stress.

              T helper (Th)-17 is a recently identified subtype of Th response that has been implicated in host defense and autoimmunity. We investigated whether there is evidence for a Th-17 response in human and experimental murine dry eye (DE). Gene expression in the human DE conjunctiva showed increased levels of the Th-17 inducers, interleukin (IL)-23, IL-17A, and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). In the murine model, we found that desiccating stress increased matrix metalloproteinase-9, Th-17-associated genes (IL-6, IL-23, transforming growth factor-beta1 and -2, IL-23R, IL-17R, IL-17A, retinoid-related orphan receptor-gammat, and CC chemokine attractant ligand-20) and IFN-gamma in cornea and conjunctiva. Furthermore, we found a significantly increased concentration of IL-17 in tears and number of IL-17-producing cells on the ocular surface. Antibody neutralization of IL-17 ameliorated experimental DE-induced corneal epithelial barrier dysfunction and decreased the expression of matrix metalloproteinases 3 and 9. Taken together, these findings suggest that IL-17 has a role in corneal epithelial barrier disruption in DE.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                27 January 2011
                : 6
                : 1
                : e16437
                [1 ]Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
                [2 ]Department of Oncology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
                [3 ]Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
                [4 ]Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
                [5 ]Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
                [6 ]Department of Cell Biology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
                University of Reading, United Kingdom
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: SC ASJ AH. Performed the experiments: CS HM XF. Analyzed the data: SC LC. Wrote the paper: SC ASJ. Troubleshooting ELISAs, preparation of figures and tables: SL.

                Jun et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                : 11 October 2010
                : 20 December 2010
                Page count
                Pages: 8
                Research Article
                Extracellular Matrix Proteins
                Growth Factors
                Immune System Proteins
                Immunologic Techniques
                Clinical Immunology
                Immune System
                Corneal Disorders



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