Purpose: This study investigated ocular surface components that contribute to matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 found in tears following corneal epithelial wounding.

Methods: Laboratory short-haired cats underwent corneal epithelial debridement in one randomly chosen eye (n = 18). Eyeflush tears were collected at baseline and during various healing stages. Procedural control eyes (identical experimental protocol as wounded eyes except for wounding, n = 5) served as controls for tear analysis. MMP activity was analyzed in tears using gelatin zymography. MMP staining patterns were evaluated in ocular tissues using immunohistochemistry and used to determine MMP expression sites responsible for tear-derived MMPs.

Results: The proMMP-2 and proMMP-9 activity in tears was highest in wounded and procedural control eyes during epithelial migration (8 to 36 hours post-wounding). Wounded eyes showed significantly higher proMMP-9 in tears only during and after epithelial restratification (day 3 to 4 and day 7 to 28 post-wounding, respectively) as compared to procedural controls (p,0.05). Tears from wounded and procedural control eyes showed no statistical differences for pro- MMP-2 and MMP-9 (p.0.05). Immunohistochemistry showed increased MMP-2 and MMP-9 expression in the cornea during epithelial migration and wound closure. The conjunctival epithelium exhibited highest levels of both MMPs during wound closure, while MMP-9 expression was reduced in conjunctival goblet cells during corneal epithelial migration followed by complete absence of the cells during wound closure. The immunostaining for both MMPs was elevated in the lacrimal gland during corneal healing, with little/no change in the meibomian glands. Conjunctival-associated lymphoid tissue (CALT) showed weak MMP-2 and intense MMP-9 staining.

Conclusions: Following wounding, migrating corneal epithelium contributed little to the observed MMP levels in tears. The major sources assessed in the present study for tear-derived MMP-2 and MMP-9 following corneal wounding are the lacrimal gland and CALT. Other sources included stromal keratocytes and conjunctiva with goblet cells.


eyes, cornea, epithelium, ocular anatomy, wound healing, tissue repair