Distribution of Corneal TRPV1 and Its Association With Immune Cells During Homeostasis and Injury.Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2021 07 01; 62(9):6.IO
Given the role of corneal sensory nerves during epithelial wound repair, we sought to examine the relationship between immune cells and polymodal nociceptors following corneal injury.
Young C57BL/6J mice received a 2 mm corneal epithelial injury. One week later, corneal wholemounts were immunostained using β-tubulin-488, TRPV1 (transient receptor potential ion channel subfamily V member-1, a nonselective cation channel) and immune cell (MHC-II, CD45 and CD68) antibodies. The sum length of TRPV1+ and TRPV1- nerve fibers, and their spatial association with immune cells, was quantified in intact and injured corneas.
TRPV1+ nerves account for ∼40% of the nerve fiber length in the intact corneal epithelium and ∼80% in the stroma. In the superficial epithelial layers, TRPV1+ nerve terminal length was similar in injured and intact corneas. In intact corneas, the density (sum length) of basal epithelial TRPV1+ and TRPV1- nerve fibers was similar, however, in injured corneas, TRPV1+ nerve density was higher compared to TRPV1- nerves. The degree of physical association between TRPV1+ nerves and intraepithelial CD45+ MHC-II+ CD11c+ cells was similar in intact and injured corneas. Stromal leukocytes co-expressed TRPV1, which was partially localized to CD68+ lysosomes, and this expression pattern was lower in injured corneas.
TRPV1+ nerves accounted for a higher proportion of corneal nerves after injury, which may provide insights into the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain following corneal trauma. The close interactions of TRPV1+ nerves with intraepithelial immune cells and expression of TRPV1 by stromal macrophages provide evidence of neuroimmune interactions in the cornea.