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This is the final copy of the article from the FASEB Journal, 2022;36:e21995

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While the eye is considered an immune privileged site, its privilege is abrogated when immune cells are recruited from the surrounding vasculature in response to trauma, infection, aging, and autoimmune diseases like uveitis. Here, we investigate whether in uveitis immune cells become associated with the lens capsule and compromise its privilege in studies of C57BL/6J mice with experimental autoimmune uveitis. These studies show that at D14, the peak of uveitis in these mice, T cells, macrophages, and Ly6G/Ly6C+ immune cells associate with the lens basement membrane capsule, burrow into the capsule matrix, and remain integrated with the capsule as immune resolution is occurring at D26. 3D surface rendering image analytics of confocal z-stacks and scanning electron microscopy imaging of the lens surface show the degradation of the lens capsule as these lens-associated immune cells integrate with and invade the lens capsule, with a subset infiltrating both epithelial and fiber cell regions of lens tissue, abrogating its immune privilege. Those immune cells that remain on the surface often become entwined with a fibrillar net-like structure. Immune cell invasion of the lens capsule in uveitis has not been described previously and may play a role in induction of lens and other eye pathologies associated with autoimmunity.

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