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Abstract

Wound healing is a complex and well-orchestrated biological process. Corneal epithelial cells (CECs) must respond quickly to trauma to rapidly restore barrier function and protect the eye from noxious agents. They express a high level of ß2-adrenergic receptors but their function is unknown. Here, we report the novel finding that they form part of a regulatory network in the corneal epithelium, capable of modulating corneal epithelial wound repair. ß-adrenergic receptor agonists delay CEC migration via a protein phosphatase 2A-mediated mechanism and decrease both electric field-directed migration and corneal wound healing. Conversely, ß-adrenergic receptor antagonists accelerate CEC migration, enhance electric field-mediated directional migration, and promote corneal wound repair. We demonstrate that CECs express key enzymes required for epinephrine (ß-adrenergic receptor agonist) synthesis in the cytoplasm and can detect epinephrine in cell extracts. We propose that the mechanism for the pro-motogenic effect of the ß-adrenergic antagonist is blockade of the ß2-adrenergic receptor preventing autocrine catecholamine binding. Further investigation of this network will improve our understanding of one of the most frequently prescribed class of drugs. J. Cell. Physiol. 211: 261–272, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.