Extracellular Vesicles Secreted by Corneal Epithelial Cells Promote Myofibroblast Differentiation
The corneal epithelium mediates the initial response to injury of the ocular surface and secretes a number of profibrotic factors that promote corneal scar development within the stroma. Previous studies have shown that corneal epithelial cells also secrete small extracellular vesicles (EVs) in response to corneal wounding. In this paper, we hypothesized that EVs released from corneal epithelial cells in vitro contain protein cargo that promotes myofibroblast differentiation, the key cell
... the key cell responsible for scar development. We focused on the interplay between corneal epithelial-derived EVs and the stroma to determine if the corneal fibroblast phenotype, contraction, proliferation, or migration were promoted following vesicle uptake by corneal fibroblasts. Our results showed an increase in myofibroblast differentiation based on α-smooth muscle actin expression and elevated contractility following EV treatment compared to controls. Furthermore, we characterized the contents of epithelial cell-derived EVs using proteomic analysis and identified the presence of provisional matrix proteins, fibronectin and thrombospondin-1, as the dominant encapsulated protein cargo secreted by corneal epithelial cells in vitro. Proteins associated with the regulation of protein translation were also abundant in EVs. This paper reveals a novel role and function of EVs secreted by the corneal epithelium that may contribute to corneal scarring.