Background: We previously identified compound niches (CNs) at the limbal:corneal border of the mouse cornea that contain corneal epithelial progenitor cells, express Keratin 8 (K8), and goblet cell mucin Muc5AC. During re-epithelialization after 2.5 mm epithelial debridement wounds, CNs migrate onto the cornea and expand in number mimicking conjunctivalization. When CNs form during development and whether they express corneal epithelial progenitor cell enriched K14 was not known.
Results: To provide insight into corneal epithelial homeostasis, we quantify changes in expression of simple (K8, K18, K19) and stratified squamous epithelial keratins (K5, K12, K14, and K15) during postnatal development and in response to 2.5 mm wounds using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR), confocal imaging and immunoblots. K14 + CNs are present 7 days after birth. By 21 days, when the eyelids are open, K8, K19, and Muc5AC are also expressed in CNs. By 28 days after wounding, the corneal epithelium shows enhanced mRNA and protein expression for K14 and retains mRNA and protein for corneal epithelial specific K12.
Conclusions: The keratin phenotype observed in corneal epithelial cells before eyelid opening is similar to that seen during wound healing. Data show K14 + corneal epithelial progenitor cells expand in number after 2.5 mm wounds. Developmental Dynamics 245:132–143, 2016. © 2015 The Authors. Developmental Dynamics published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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[Epub ahead of print]