PURPOSE. Neurturin has been identified as a neurotrophic factor for parasympathetic neurons. Neurturin-deficient (NRTN-/-) mice have defective parasympathetic innervation of their lacrimal glands. This study was conducted to evaluate tear function and ocular surface phenotype in NRTN -/- mice. METHODS. Determined by tail genomic DNA PCR, 25 NRTN -/- mice and 17 neurturin-normal (NRTN+/+) mice aged 6 weeks to 4 months were evaluated. Aqueous tear production, tear fluorescein clearance and corneal sensation were serially measured. Comeal permeability to AlexaFluor dextran (AFD; Molecular Probes, Eugene, OR) was measured by a fluorometric assay at 485 nm excitation and 530 nm emission. Histology was evaluated in PAS-stained sections. Mucin and HLA class II (IA) antigen were assessed by immunofluorescent staining. Tear IL-1β was measured by ELISA, and tear matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 by zymography. Gene expression in the corneal epithelia was analyzed by semiquantitative RT-PCR. RESULTS. In comparison to that in age-matched NRTN+/+ mice, aqueous tear production, tear fluorescein clearance, and corneal sensation were significantly reduced in NRTN-/- mice, whereas corneal permeability to AFD was significantly increased. Immunoreactive MUC-4 and -5AC mucin and goblet cell density (P < 0.001) in the conjunctiva of NRTN-/- mice were lower than in NRTN+/+ mice. The expression of MUC-1 and -4 mRNA by the corneal epithelium was reduced in NRTN-/- mice. There were a significantly greater number of IA antigen-positive conjunctival epithelial cells in NRTN-/- mice than NRTN+/+ mice. Tear fluid IL-1β and MMP-9 concentrations and the expression of IL-1β, TNF-β, macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-2, cytokine-induced neutrophil chemoattractant (KC), and MMP-9 mRNA by the corneal epithelia were significantly increased in NRTN-/- mice, compared with NRTN +/+ mice. CONCLUSIONS. Neurturin-deficient mice show phenotypic changes and ocular surface inflammation that mimic human keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This model supports the importance of a functional ocular surface-central nervous system-lacrimal gland sensory-autonomic neural network in maintaining ocular surface health and homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4223-4229
Number of pages7
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003


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