Thy-1 distinguishes human corneal fibroblasts and myofibroblasts from keratocytes

Ying Pei, David Sherry, Alison McDermott

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67 Citations (Scopus)


After corneal injury, keratocytes become activated and transform into repair phenotypes—corneal fibroblasts or myofibroblasts, however, these important cells are difficult to identify histologically, compromising studies of stromal wound healing. Recent studies indicate that expression of the cell surface protein, Thy-1, is induced in fibroblast populations associated with wound healing and fibrosis in other tissues. We investigated whether keratocyte transformation to either repair-associated phenotype induced Thy-1 expression. Human corneal keratocytes were isolated by collagenase digestion. The cells were either processed immediately (i.e. freshly isolated keratocytes) or were cultured in the presence of 10% fetal bovine serum or transforming growth factor-β to induce transformation to the corneal fibroblast and myofibroblast phenotypes, respectively. Thy-1 mRNA and protein expression by freshly isolated keratocytes and corneal fibroblasts were assessed by RT-PCR and Western blotting. mRNA also was extracted from the whole intact stroma and assessed by RT-PCR. Thy-1 was localised immunocytochemically in cultured human corneal fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, and in keratocytes in normal human corneal tissue sections. Thy-1 mRNA and protein were detectable in cultured human corneal fibroblasts, but not freshly isolated keratocytes. Whole uninjured stroma showed no detectable Thy-1 mRNA expression. Cultured human corneal fibroblasts and myofibroblasts both labelled for Thy-1, but keratocytes in the stroma of normal human cornea did not. We conclude that Thy-1 expression is induced by transformation of keratocytes to corneal fibroblasts and myofibroblasts, suggesting a potential functional role for Thy-1 in stromal wound healing and providing a surface marker to distinguish the normal keratocyte from its repair phenotypes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-712
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Issue number5
Early online date22 Sept 2004
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004


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