Repair phenotype in corneal fibroblasts is controlled by an interleukin-1 alpha autocrine feedback loop.
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PURPOSE: To explore the role of autocrine interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha) as a central regulator of the repair phenotype in corneal fibroblasts. METHODS: Disruption of the actin cytoskeleton with cytochalasin B (CB), which mimics changes in shape that occur in repair tissues, was used to stimulate repair gene expression in early-passage fibroblasts. Changes in expression of IL-1 alpha, IL-8, collagenase, and ENA-78 were determined by Northern blot analysis, radioimmunoassay, and an enzyme-amplified sensitivity immunoassay (EASIA). Expression of repair genes was also examined in repair fibroblasts, isolated from healing, penetrating keratectomy wounds in rabbits. RESULTS: Blocking IL-1 alpha activity prevented both constitutive and stimulated increases in synthesis of IL-8 and collagenase in early-passage cultures of corneal fibroblasts, demonstrating the role of IL-1 alpha as a necessary intermediate for expression of these genes. Evidence is also presented that the IL-1 alpha autocrine controls expression of an IL-8 related factor, ENA-78. Unlike early-passage fibroblasts, fibroblasts freshly isolated from the uninjured cornea did not express IL-1 alpha. However, fibroblasts freshly isolated from remodeling corneal repair tissue 3 weeks after injury were found to express substantial levels of IL-1 alpha, regulated through an autocrine feedback loop. Neutralization experiments demonstrated that the IL-1 alpha autocrine is largely responsible for controlling both collagenase and IL-8 synthesis in repair fibroblasts, as it is in early-passage fibroblasts. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide evidence that activation of an autocrine IL-1 alpha feedback loop is an important mechanism by which fibroblasts adopt a repair phenotype during remodeling of the cornea.