The Chemokine Receptor CXCR4 Mediates Recruitment of CD11c+ Conventional Dendritic Cells Into the Inflamed Murine Cornea. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2018;59(13):5671-5681.Abstract.
Purpose: The cornea contains distinct populations of antigen-presenting cells (APCs), including conventional dendritic cells (cDCs). Little is known about the molecular mechanisms involved in cDCs homing and recruitment into the naïve and inflamed cornea. The purpose of this study was to investigate the presence of CXCR4 and its ligand CXCL12 in the murine cornea and its role in cDC migration during corneal inflammation. Methods: The expression of CXCR4 and CXCL12 in naïve and suture-inflamed murine corneas was assessed by whole-mount staining, flow cytometry, and quantitative PCR. The role of CXCR4 in recruitment into inflamed corneas was investigated using adoptive transfer of cDCs blocked with neutralizing antibody against CXCR4. Results: We show the chemokine receptor CXCR4 to be expressed on 51.7% and 64.8% of total corneal CD11c+ cDCs, equating to 98.6 ± 12.5 cells/mm2 in the peripheral and 64.7 ± 10.6 cells/mm2 in the central naïve cornea, respectively. Along with a 4.5-fold increase in CXCL12 expression during inflammation (P < 0.05), infiltrating cDCs also expressed CXCR4 in both the peripheral (222.6 ± 33.3 cells/mm2; P < 0.001) and central cornea (161.9 ± 23.8 cells/mm2; P = 0.001), representing a decrease to 31.0% and 37.3% in the cornea, respectively. Further, ex vivo blockade (390.1 ± 40.1 vs. 612.1 ± 78.3; P = 0.008) and local blockade (263.5 ± 27.1 vs. 807.5 ± 179.5, P < 0.001) with anti-CXCR4 neutralizing antibody resulted in a decrease in cDCs homing into the cornea compared with cells pretreated with isotype controls. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that corneal CXCL12 plays a direct role in CXCR4+ cDC recruitment into the cornea. The CXCR4/CXCL12 axis is therefore a potential target to modulate corneal inflammatory responses.