Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are zinc-dependent endopeptidases with the potential to degrade all types of extracellular matrix. The ADAM (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase) family of peptidases was recently identified as cleaving the extracellular domain of transmembrane proteins. This was termed ectodomain shedding. We investigated the MMP expression in patients with corneal diseases and the potential role of ADAMs in corneal pathophysiology. We detected upregulation of the active form of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in the tear fluid from patients with corneal melting or recurrent corneal erosion. Using human corneal epithelial cells, we observed ADAM17-dependent ectodomain shedding of soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 and soluble interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor (sIL-6R). The production of sIL-6R was also induced by messenger RNA splicing in the human corneal epithelial cells. IL-6/sIL-6R-induced signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 phosphorylation was observed in cultured human corneal fibroblasts, suggesting that IL-6 trans-signaling induced inflammatory cellular signaling in the human corneal fibroblasts. We demonstrated that MMPs are significantly upregulated in collagen-destructive disorders of the cornea. Additionally, we observed that ectodomain shedding by ADAMs in corneal epithelial cells mediated the production of soluble cytokine receptors. Trans-signaling of IL-6 can induce an inflammatory response in corneal stroma, indicating the significance of IL-6 trans-signaling in ocular surface inflammation. Thus, MMPs and ADAMs play an important role in the pathophysiology of corneal diseases.
Division of Ophthalmology, Department of Visual Sciences, Nihon University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.
Reprints: Tohru Sakimoto, Division of Ophthalmology, Department of Visual Sciences, Nihon University School of Medicine, 30-1 Oyaguchi Kamimachi, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-8610, Japan (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, with a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (No. 20791284 and 23792010).
The authors state that they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.