The ocular surface is a frequent target tissue of mucosal chronic GVHD (cGVHD). We investigated the histopathological features of the conjunctival microvilli in patients with cGVHD. Conjunctival tissue specimens from patients with cGVHD or Sjögren's syndrome (SS) or from healthy individuals were examined by light microscopy and EM, impression cytology, and immunohistochemistry. The cGVHD conjunctivae showed significantly more metaplasia and fewer goblet cells than the SS and normal conjunctivae. Abundant CD8 + T cells infiltrated the basal epithelia in the cGVHD conjunctiva. The microvilli per standard epithelial unit and the secretory vesicles were counted by analyzing electron micrographs. The mean number of mucosal microvilli was significantly lower in the cGVHD than that in the SS or normal specimens, and the microvilli were significantly shorter, with a smaller height-width ratio. The mean number of secretory vesicles was also significantly lower, and the membrane-spanning mucin thinner, in the cGVHD compared with the SS and normal specimens. Thus, the conjunctival mucosal microvilli of cGVHD patients were significantly different in number and morphology from those of SS and normal subjects. These may be important factors affecting the stability of the tear-film layer and its contribution to cGVHD-related dry eye.
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