Purpose: Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and toll-like receptors (TLRs) form part of the “chemical barrier” of the ocular surface to microbes. Evidence suggests that pathogen recognition by TLR releases AMPs, altering AMP-TLR profiles in pathological states. This study investigated ocular surface expression of AMP-TLRs in health and disease.
Methods: Complementary DNA from conjunctival and corneal impression cytology samples was used for semiquantitative and quantitative polymerase chain reactions, to determine gene expression of 6 AMPs and TLRs-1-10, in healthy subjects and patients with bacterial (n = 6), viral (n = 6), Acanthamoeba (n = 3), or dry eye (n = 7) diseases.
Results: Semiquantitative polymerase chain reaction showed variable AMP expression within groups and some expression patterns between groups, increased levels of LEAP (liver-expressed antimicrobial peptide)-1/hepcidin in viral disease, LEAP-2 in dry eye, and human beta defensin 3 in bacterial disease. There was no significant variability in TLR expression. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction showed significantly higher expression of LEAP-1 (P = 0.002) and TLR-8 (P = 0.023) and TLR-10 (P = 0.014) in viral keratitis and LEAP-2 (P = 0.034) in dry eye, versus controls.
Conclusions: Increased expression of LEAP-1 and TLRs 8 and 10 in viral keratitis is novel; TLR-10 has not previously had a documented ligand. LEAP-2 may have a role in dry eye. Further studies will help to improve the understanding of these diseases and yield novel therapeutic interventions.