Br J Ophthalmol 90:372-377 doi:10.1136/bjo.2005.080846
  • Laboratory science - Extended reports

Proteomic analysis of human meibomian gland secretions

  1. P S Tsai1,2,3,
  2. J E Evans5,
  3. K M Green5,
  4. R M Sullivan1,
  5. D A Schaumberg1,2,3,4,
  6. S M Richards1,3,
  7. M R Dana1,2,3,
  8. D A Sullivan1,3
  1. 1Schepens Eye Research Institute, Boston, MA, USA
  2. 2Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, MA, USA
  3. 3Harvard Medical School, MA, USA
  4. 4Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
  5. 5University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: David A Sullivan PhD, Schepens Eye Research Institute, 20 Staniford Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA; sullivan{at}
  • Accepted 2 November 2005


Background/aim: Human tears contain hundreds of proteins that may exert a significant influence on tear film stability, ocular surface integrity, and visual function. The authors hypothesise that many of these proteins originate from the meibomian gland. This study’s aim was to begin to develop the proteomic methodology to permit the testing of their hypothesis.

Methods: Meibomian gland secretions were collected from the lower eyelids of adult volunteers and placed in a chloroform-methanol mixture. Samples were partitioned in a biphasic system and non-lipid phase materials were reduced, alkylated, and trypsin digested to obtain peptides for protein identification. This peptide mixture was separated by µ-capillary reverse phase chromatography and the effluent examined by nano-electrospray MS and data dependent MS/MS. SEQUEST software was used to identify proteins from the MS/MS spectra.

Results: The methodological approach to date has permitted the identification of more than 90 proteins in human meibomian gland secretions. Proteins include the α2-macroglobulin receptor, IgA α chain, farnesoid X activated receptor, interferon regulatory factor 3, lacritin precursor, lactotransferrin, lipocalin 1, lysozyme C precursor, potential phospholipid transporting ATPase IK, seven transmembrane helix receptor (also termed somatostatin receptor type 4), testes development related NYD-SP21 (also termed high affinity IgE receptor β subunit), and TrkC tyrosine kinase.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that the meibomian gland secretes a number of proteins into the tear film. It is quite possible that these proteins contribute to the dynamics of the tear film in both health and disease.


  • These studies were approved by the human studies committee of the Schepens Eye Research Institute (Boston, MA, USA) and were performed in accordance with guidelines established by the Declaration of Helsinki.

  • Competing interests: none declared