To analyze whether topical application of corticosteroids inhibits inflammatory corneal lymphangiogenesis and to study the potential underlying antilymphangiogenic mechanisms.
Inflammatory corneal neovascularization was induced by suture placement, and the corneas were then treated with topical fluorometholone, prednisolone acetate, or dexamethasone sodium phosphate. After 1 week, the corneas were stained with lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor 1 for detection of pathological corneal lymphangiogenesis. The effect of these corticosteroids on macrophage recruitment was assessed via fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis. The effect of these corticosteroids on proinflammatory cytokine expression by peritoneal exudate cells was tested via real-time polymerase chain reaction. Furthermore, the effect of steroid treatment on the proliferation of lymphatic endothelial cells was assessed via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Treatment with corticosteroids resulted in a significant reduction of inflammatory corneal lymphangiogenesis. The antilymphangiogenic effect of fluorometholone was significantly weaker than that of prednisolone and dexamethasone. Corneal macrophage recruitment was also significantly inhibited by the application of topical steroids. Treatment of peritoneal exudate cells with corticosteroids led to a significant downregulation of the RNA expression levels of tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 1β. Additionally, proliferation of lymphatic endothelial cells was also inhibited.
Corticosteroids are strong inhibitors of inflammatory corneal lymphangiogenesis, with significant differences between various corticosteroids in terms of their antilymphangiogenic potency. The main mechanism of the antilymphangiogenic effect seems to be through the suppression of macrophage infiltration, proinflammatory cytokine expression, and direct inhibition of proliferation of lymphatic endothelial cells.
Steroids block corneal lymphangiogenesis, the main risk factor for immune rejections after corneal transplantation. The different antilymphangiogenic potency of these drugs should be taken into account when using steroids in clinical practice (eg, after keratoplasty).