Purpose: To study the expression of secreted frizzled-related protein-1 (SFRP-1) and microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3), an autophagy marker, in keratoconus. Methods: Under an institutional review board-approved protocol, de-identified and/or surgically discarded normal donor (n = 10) and keratoconus corneas (n = 10) were obtained. The corneal samples were fixed in formalin and embedded in paraffin. Immunohistochemical staining using SFRP-1 and LC3 antibodies was performed. Results: The majority of expression of SFRP-1 was seen in the epithelium; however, in 3 tissues that showed high expression, staining was also present in the stroma and endothelium. Like SFRP-1, the LC3 expression in keratoconus tissues occurred at 3 different levels: low, medium, and high. Collectively these data suggest that there are differences in the expression levels of SFRP-1 and LC3 in keratoconus tissue compared with the normal tissue. Low expressivity of SFRP-1 seemed to correspond to low expressivity of LC3, whereas medium to high expressivity of SFRP-1 corresponded to medium to high expressivity of LC3. Conclusions: Increased expression of SFRP-1 and LC3 was observed in keratoconus corneas. Keratocyte autophagy seen with keratoconus may play a role in the pathogenesis of keratoconus.
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