Tissues typically harbor subpopulations of resident immune cells that function as rapid responders to injury and whose activation leads to induction of an adaptive immune response, playing important roles in repair and protection. Since the lens is an avascular tissue, it was presumed that it was absent of resident immune cells. Our studies now show that resident immune cells are a shared feature of the human, mouse, and chicken lens epithelium. These resident immune cells function as immediate responders to injury and rapidly populate the wound edge following mock cataract surgery to function as leader cells. Many of these resident immune cells also express MHCII providing them with antigen presenting ability to engage an adaptive immune response. We provide evidence that during development immune cells migrate on the ciliary zonules and localize among the equatorial epithelial cells of the lens adjacent to where the ciliary zonules associate with the lens capsule. These findings suggest that the vasculature-rich ciliary body is a source of lens resident immune cells. We identified a major role for these cells as rapid responders to wounding, quickly populating each wound were they can function as leaders of lens tissue repair. Our findings also show that lens resident immune cells are progenitors of myofibroblasts, which characteristically appear in response to lens cataract surgery injury, and therefore, are likely agents of lens pathologies to impair vision like fibrosis.
Menko, A.; DeDreu, JodiRae; Logan, Caitlin M.; Paulson, Heather; Levin, Alex V; and Walker, Janice L, "Resident immune cells of the avascular lens: Mediators of the injury and fibrotic response of the lens." (2021). Department of Pathology, Anatomy, and Cell Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 312.
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