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Expression of Endostatin in Normal and Vascularized Human Corneas

Philipp W., Speicher L.,
Universitätsklinik für Augenheilkunde und Optometrie (Innsbruck)

Purpose: In the normal cornea a balance between angiogenic factors and anti-angiogenic molecules is assumed to be responsible for the prevention of neovascularization. Endostatin is a recently identified potent anti-angiogenic molecule which is generated by cleavage of a C-terminal fragment of collagen XVIII. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether endostatin is differently expressed in normal and inflamed, vascularized human corneas and, thus, may play a role in the maintenance of the avascularity of the cornea.
Method: 25 inflamed and vascularized human corneas were obtained during penetrating keratoplasty in patients with various corneal diseases. Immunohistochemistry was performed on frozen sections using the streptavidin-biotin-peroxidase method and a highly specific anti-endostatin antibody. 5 normal human corneas with a scleral rim served as control.
Results: In normal corneas endostatin was strongly expressed by all epithelial layers, by the epithelial basement membrane, by cells of the trabecular meshwork, and by the innermost layer of the Descemet membrane. In inflamed and vascularized corneas increased endostatin expression was found in the basement membrane and in endothelial cells of newly formed vessels and in keratocytes/ fibroblasts in the stroma.
Conclusions: The results of the present study show that endostatin is strongly expressed particularly in the epithelium of normal corneas and, thus, may play an important role in the maintenance of the avascularity of the cornea. In inflammatory corneal diseases endostatin may be involved in the regulation and limitation of corneal angiogenesis by counteracting against the increased production of angiogenic substances, e.g., VEGF.