Purpose. To determine the epithelial lineage of origin in corneal pannus tissue surgically removed from patients with total limbal stem cell (SC) deficiency. METHODS. The lineage of origin of the entire conjunctivalized pannus removed from eight corneas with a diagnosis of total limbal SC deficiency was characterized by anti-keratin (K)-3 and anti-K19 monoclonal antibodies. The protein and mRNA of epithelial outgrowth from segments of five such pannus specimens were analyzed by Western blot and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, respectively. RESULTS. Cross sections of all eight specimens showed a stratified epithelium with goblet cells expressing mucin (MUC)-5AC, and a stroma showing blood vessels and inflammatory cell infiltrates. Immunostaining showed full-thickness expression of K19 in the entire pannus of all eight specimens. Expression of K3 was negative in seven patients, but was sporadically positive in a patient with Stevens-Johnson syndrome. In culture, all five pannus specimens generated a compact, small epithelial cell outgrowth, and except for one, reached confluence in 2 to 3 weeks. The K3/K12 pair was expressed by extracts of cell outgrowth from the control limbal epithelial explant, but not in all five pannus specimens. A 60-kDa band of ΔNp63 was expressed in the control specimen and in all five pannus specimens. Cell outgrowth expressed K3 transcript in three, but none showed K12 transcript. CONCLUSIONS. The resultant epithelial phenotype of the pannus tissue was not corneal, as evidenced by the negative staining to cornea-specific K12 mRNA and protein, but was conjunctival, as evidenced by the presence of goblet cells, the weak expression of K3, and the strong expression of K19. The abundant expression of ΔNp63 in such conjunctiva-derived epithelium in eyes with total limbal SC deficiency raises doubts as to its validity as a limbal SC marker.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience