PURPOSE. Progenitor cells of the limbal epithelium reside in a discrete area peripheral to the more differentiated corneal epithelium and maintain tissue homeostasis. What regulates the limbal-corneal epithelial boundary is a major unanswered question. Ephrin-A1 ligand is enriched in the limbal epithelium, whereas EphA2 receptor is concentrated in the corneal epithelium. This reciprocal pattern led us to assess the role of ephrin-A1 and EphA2 in limbal-corneal epithelial boundary organization. METHODS. EphA2-expressing corneal epithelial cells engineered to express ephrin-A1 were used to study boundary formation in vitro in a manner that mimicked the relative abundance of these juxtamembrane signaling proteins in the limbal and corneal epithelium in vivo. Interaction of these two distinct cell populations following initial seeding into discrete culture compartments was assessed by live cell imaging. Immunofluoresence and immunoblotting was used to evaluate the contribution of downstream growth factor signaling and cell-cell adhesion systems to boundary formation at sites of heterotypic contact between ephrin-A1 and EphA2 expressing cells. RESULTS. Ephrin-A1-expressing cells impeded and reversed the migration of EphA2-expressing corneal epithelial cells upon heterotypic contact formation leading to coordinated migration of the two cell populations in the direction of an ephrin-A1-expressing leading front. Genetic silencing and pharmacologic inhibitor studies demonstrated that the ability of ephrin-A1 to direct migration of EphA2-expressing cells depended on an a disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain-containing protein 10 (ADAM10) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling pathway that limited E-cadherin-mediated adhesion at heterotypic boundaries. CONCLUSIONS. Ephrin-A1/EphA2 signaling complexes play a key role in limbal-corneal epithelial compartmentalization and the response of these tissues to injury.
- Wound healing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience