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Galectin-3: role in ocular allergy and potential as a predictive biomarker


Aims To evaluate galectin-3 (Gal-3), a β-galactoside binding protein, as a possible biomarker in ocular allergy and further investigated the role of endogenous Gal-3 in a murine model of ovalbumin (OVA)-induced allergic conjunctivitis (AC).

Methods Conjunctival impression cytology specimens from control and patients with severe vernal keratoconjunctivitis, treated or untreated, were used to evaluate Gal-3 expression by immunocytochemistry. To investigate the mechanism of action of Gal-3, OVA-immunised BALB/c male wild-type (WT) and Gal-3 null (Gal-3-/-) mice were challenged with eye drops containing OVA on days 14–16 with a subset of animals pretreated with 0.03% tacrolimus (TC) or dexamethasone (Dex).

Results Patients with AC and OVA-sensitised WT mice exhibited increased levels of Gal-3 in the conjunctiva compared with control, an effect reverted by the action of Dex and TC therapy. Twenty-four hours after the final OVA challenge, total and anti-OVA IgE levels increased significantly in the blood of OVA-sensitised WT and Gal-3-/- mice compared with controls, supporting the efficacy of the AC model. The lack of endogenous Gal-3 exacerbated the local inflammatory response, increasing the influx of eosinophils and mast cell activation. Additionally, OVA-sensitised Gal-3-/- animals exhibited increased CD4+ expression in the eyes as well as eotaxin, IL-4, IL-13 and interferon-γ levels in the tear fluid compared with WT animals.

Conclusion Gal-3 contributes to the pathogenesis of ocular allergy and represents a relevant therapeutic target.

  • keratoconjunctivitis
  • impression cytology
  • galectin
  • eosinophil
  • mast cell

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