PURPOSE. To elucidate the role of signals mediated by EphB4 receptor tyrosine kinase and its transmembrane ephrinB2 ligand in corneal lymphatic capillaries. METHODS. To detect expression of ephrinB2 and EphB4 in mouse corneas, immunohistochemistry of flat-mount corneas from 6- to 10-week-old wild-type, Efnb2-lacZ, and Ephb4-lacZ mice on a C57BL/6 background was performed. To induce formation of new blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, mouse corneal epithelia were swabbed with 0.1 M sodium hydroxide. To antagonize endogenous receptor-ligand interactions in corneal lymphatic vessels, recombinant EphB4/Fc proteins were injected into the subconjunctival spaces. To visualize the corneal lymphatic flow, FITC-dextran was injected subconjunctivally. RESULTS. In lymphatic capillaries of adult mouse corneas, EphB4 was intensively expressed in lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) of funnel-shaped valves, which were segregated from ephrinB2-expressing LECs. The number of corneal lymphatic valves was significantly decreased by Efnb2 haploinsufficiency, and subconjunctival EphB4/Fc injections resulted in the deformation of preexisting valves of corneal lymphatic capillaries. In alkali-burn corneas, ephrinB2 and EphB4 were highly expressed in LECs of valve-forming areas. Subconjunctival EphB4/Fc injections perturbed the morphologic maturation of new lymphatic valves, leading to reflux of FITC-dextran to peripheral lymphatic branches. CONCLUSIONS. The results demonstrate a pivotal role of ephrinB2-EphB4 signals in the formation and maintenance of funnel-shaped valves in corneal lymphatic capillaries, and further suggest the potential of ephrinB2-EphB4 signals as a target to therapeutically manipulate corneal lymphangiogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience