To examine the normal human corneal stroma for the presence of bone marrow–derived cells.
Thirty-four corneas from donors aged 56 to 71 years were used. The stroma of the donor corneas was examined immunohistochemically by fluorescent microscopy. CD45-positive and -negative cells were separated from collagenase-digested stroma by magnetic beads, and the expression of toll-like receptor 4 was analyzed.
CD45-positive cells were mainly found in the anterior stroma of the central and paracentral cornea as well as all stromal layers of the peripheral cornea (n = 5). These cells uniformly expressed CD11b, CD11c, CD14, and HLA-DR antigen but not CD3, CD19, CD56, or CD66, indicative of bone marrow–derived monocyte lineage cells, which can include monocytes, macrophages, or dendritic cells. CD45-positive cells isolated with magnetic beads accounted for 6.0% of total stromal cells (n = 20). Stromal CD45-positive cells, but not CD45-negative cells, expressed toll-like receptor 4 by flow cytometry and reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.
Our findings demonstrate that DR antigen–positive bone marrow–derived monocyte lineage cells exist in the anterior and peripheral posterior stroma of normal human cornea.
These cells may play a role in the innate and adaptive immune responses in the human cornea.