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Keywords:

  • corneal ulceration;
  • dog;
  • horse;
  • preocular tear film;
  • proteinase inhibitors;
  • proteinase

Abstract

Maintenance and repair of corneal stromal extracellular matrix (ECM) requires a tightly coordinated balance of ECM synthesis, degradation and remodeling in which proteolytic enzymes (proteinases) perform important functions. There are natural proteinase inhibitors present in preocular tear film (PTF) and cornea simultaneously with proteinases that prevent excessive degradation of normal healthy tissue. Disorders occur when there is an imbalance between proteinases and proteinase inhibitors in favor of the proteinases, causing pathologic degradation of stromal collagen and proteoglycans in the cornea. Two matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), MMP-2 and MMP-9, are of major importance in terms of remodeling and degradation of the corneal stromal collagen. Immunohistochemical studies have shown different origins of MMP-2 and -9. MMP-2 is synthesized by corneal keratocytes and performs a surveillance function in the normal cornea, becoming locally activated to degrade collagen molecules that occasionally become damaged. Alternatively, MMP-9 may be produced by epithelial cells and polymorphonuclear neutrophils following corneal wounding. Because the cornea is in close contact with the preocular tear film (PTF), proteinases have been evaluated in the PTF. In damaged corneas, total proteolytic activity in the tear fluid was found to be significantly increased compared to normal eyes and contralateral eyes. Studies analyzing the proteolytic activity in serial PTF samples during corneal healing led to the following conclusions: ulcerative keratitis in animals is associated with initially high levels of tear film proteolytic activity, which decrease as ulcers heal; proteinase levels in melting ulcers remain elevated leading to rapid progression of the ulcers. The success of medical and surgical treatment of the corneal ulcers is reflected by the proteolytic activity in tears. In animals, successful treatment leads to a rapid reduction in tear film proteolytic activity that corresponds with the improvement in the clinical signs of corneal ulceration. The in vitro effects of various compounds on proteolytic activity in the tear fluid of animals with ulcerative keratitis have been evaluated and their important inhibitory effects have been confirmed. Because these various compounds utilize different mechanisms to inhibit various families of proteinases, a combination of these proteinase inhibitors may be beneficial.