• barrier function;
  • cornea;
  • corneal epithelial cells;
  • integrin alpha v beta 6


The corneal epithelial barrier dysfunction is associated with a number of disorders of the cornea. This study aims to investigate the role of integrin alpha v beta 6 (avb6) in maintaining the corneal epithelial barrier function. In this study, the association of avb6 and endosome/lysosome in the human corneal epithelial cell line, HCE cells, was observed with immunocytochemistry. The corneal epithelial barrier function was assessed with HCE monolayers in Transwells. The results showed that avb6 was observed attaching to endosomes in HCE cells. Knockdown of avb6 resulted in disturbing the fusion of endosome/lysosome. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α could bind avb6 to form a complex that interfered with the fusion of endosome/lysosome in HCE cells. With the HCE monolayer as a corneal epithelial barrier model, the knockdown of avb6 or exposure to TNF-α markedly increased the epithelial barrier permeability to a macomolecular protein, ovalbumin, in Transwell system. After passing through the deficient epithelial barrier, the ovalbumin molecules still conserved the antigenicity. We conclude that the integrin avb6 plays an important role in the fusion of endosome/lysosome in corneal epithelial cells; inhibition of avb6 results in corneal epithelial barrier dysfunction.