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Spatiotemporally Regulated Ablation of Klf4 in Adult Mouse Corneal Epithelial Cells Results in Altered Epithelial Cell Identity and Disrupted Homeostasis

, : Spatiotemporally Regulated Ablation of Klf4 in Adult Mouse Corneal Epithelial Cells Results in Altered Epithelial Cell Identity and Disrupted Homeostasis. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 56(6): 3549-3558

In previous studies, conditional disruption of Klf4 in the developing mouse ocular surface from embryonic day 10 resulted in corneal epithelial fragility, stromal edema, and loss of conjunctival goblet cells, revealing the importance of Klf4 in ocular surface maturation. Here, we use spatiotemporally regulated ablation of Klf4 to investigate its functions in maintenance of adult corneal epithelial homeostasis. Expression of Cre was induced in ternary transgenic (Klf4(LoxP/LoxP)/Krt12(rtTA/rtTA)/Tet-O-Cre) mouse corneal epithelium by doxycycline administered through intraperitoneal injections and drinking water, to generate corneal epithelium-specific deletion of Klf4 (Klf4(Δ/ΔCE)). Corneal epithelial barrier function was tested by fluorescein staining. Expression of selected Klf4-target genes was determined by quantitative PCR (QPCR), immunoblotting, and immunofluorescent staining. Klf4 was efficiently ablated within 5 days of doxycycline administration in adult Klf4(Δ/ΔCE) corneal epithelium. The Klf4(Δ/ΔCE) corneal epithelial barrier function was disrupted, and the basal cells were swollen and rounded after 15 days of doxycycline treatment. Increased numbers of cell layers and Ki67-positive proliferating cells suggested deregulated Klf4(Δ/ΔCE) corneal epithelial homeostasis. Expression of tight junction proteins ZO-1 and occludin, desmosomal Dsg and Dsp, basement membrane laminin-332, and corneal epithelial-specific keratin-12 was decreased, while that of matrix metalloproteinase Mmp9 and noncorneal keratin-17 increased, suggesting altered Klf4(Δ/ΔCE) corneal epithelial cell identity. Ablation of Klf4 in the adult mouse corneas resulted in the absence of characteristic corneal epithelial cell differentiation, disrupted barrier function, and squamous metaplasia, revealing that Klf4 is essential for maintenance of the adult corneal epithelial cell identity and homeostasis.


PMID: 26047041

DOI: 10.1167/iovs.15-16463

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