Background The etiopathogenesis of vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) is incompletely understood. Bioactive lipids play a key role in allergic disorders. This study focused on the sphingolipid metabolism on the ocular surface of VKC and to explore if it has a contributory role in the refractoriness of the disease.
Methods Active VKC cases, (n=87) (classified as mild/moderate and severe/very severe based on the disease symptoms) and age-matched healthy controls (n=60) were recruited as part of a 2-year prospective study at a tertiary eye care centre in South India. Conjunctival imprint cytology was used to assess gene expression of enzymes of sphingolipids metabolism. Sphingolipids were estimated in the tears by LC-MS/MS analysis. In vitro study was done to assess IgE-induced alterations in sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor expression and histone modification in cultured mast cells.
Results Significantly altered gene expression of the sphingolipids enzymes and S1P receptor (SIP3R) were observed in conjunctival imprint cells of VKC cases. Pooled tears analysis revealed significantly lowered levels of S1P(d17:0), S1P(d20:1) (p<0.001) and S1P(d17:1) (p<0.01) specifically in severe/very severe VKC compared with both mild/moderate VKC and control. Cer(d18:/17:0) (p<0.001), ceramide-1-phosphate (C1P)(d18:1/8:0) (p<0.01) and C1P(d18:1/2.0 (p<0.05) were lowered in severe/very severe VKC compared with mild/moderate VKC. Cultured mast cells treated with IgE revealed significantly increased gene expression of S1P1 and 3 receptors and the protein expression of histone deacetylases (1, 6).
Conclusion Altered sphingolipid metabolism in the ocular surface results in low tear ceramide and sphingosine levels in severe/very severe VKC compared with the mild/moderate cases. The novel finding opens up fresh targets for intervention in these refractory cases.
- ocular surface
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.
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Contributors VM: experimentation and data analysis, drafting of manuscript. GS: experimental and data analysis, manuscript editing, discussion. NA: Guarantor, concept and study design, data analysis, discussion, manuscript drafting, editing and funding. SA: study design, clinical specimen and data analysis, discussion and manuscript drafting and editing. AMA: clinical specimen. BS and GI: study design, clinical specimen and data analysis, discussion and manuscript drafting and editing. USD, ML and TV: Tear Sphingolipid Analysis by LC-MS/MS (online supplemental annexure A), data analysis.
Funding Funded by ICMR, Govt. of India, Project No: (5/4/6/09/OPH/15-NCD-II).
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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