This study focuses on characterizing proteasomes in corneal epithelial cells (CEC) and in cultured autologous oral mucosal epithelial cell sheets (CAOMECS) used to regenerate the ocular surface.Limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) was surgically induced in rabbit corneas. CAOMECS was engineered and grafted onto corneas with LSCD to regenerate the ocular surface.LSCD caused an increase in inflammatory cells in the ocular surface, an increase in the formation of immunoproteasomes (IPR), and a decrease in the formation of constitutive proteasome (CPR). Specifically, LSCD-diseased CEC (D-CEC) showed a decrease in the CPR chymotrypsin-like, trypsin-like and caspase-like activities, while healthy CEC (H-CEC) and CAOMECS showed higher activities. Quantitative analysis of IPR inducible subunit (B5i, B2i, and B1i) were performed and compared to CPR subunit (B5, B2, and B1) levels. Results showed that ratios B5i/B5, B2i/B2 and B1i/B1 were higher in D-CEC, indicating that D-CEC had approximately a two-fold increase in the amount of IPR compared to CAOMECS and H-CEC. Histological analysis demonstrated that CAOMECS-grafted corneas had a re-epithelialized surface, positive staining for CPR subunits, and weak staining for IPR subunits. In addition, digital quantitative measurement of fluorescent intensity showed that the CPR B5 subunit was significantly more expressed in CAOMECS-grafted corneas compared to non-grafted corneas with LSCD.CAOMECS grafting successfully replaced the D-CEC with oral mucosal epithelial cells with higher levels of CPR. The increase in constitutive proteasome expression is possibly responsible for the recovery and improvement in CAOMECS-grafted corneas.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.