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This article is the author's final published version in PloS One, Volume 17, Issue 9, September 2022, Pages e0271950.

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Copyright © 2022 Wang et al

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) is characterized by the growth and contraction of cellular membranes within the vitreous cavity and on both surfaces of the retina, resulting in recurrent retinal detachments and poor visual outcomes. Proinflammatory cytokines like tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) have been associated with PVR and the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. Cigarette smoke is the only known modifiable risk factor for PVR, but the mechanisms are unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of cigarette smoke on the proinflammatory TNFα/NF-κB/Snail pathway in RPE cells to better understand the mechanisms through which cigarette smoke increases the risk of PVR. Human ARPE-19 cells were exposed to cigarette smoke extract (CSE), for 4 to 24-hours and TNFα, Snail, IL-6, IL-8, and α-SMA levels were analyzed by qPCR and/or Western blot. The severity of PVR formation was assessed in a murine model of PVR after intravitreal injection of ARPE-19 cells pre-treated with CSE or not. Fundus imaging, OCT imaging, and histologic analysis 4 weeks after injection were used to examine PVR severity. ARPE-19 cells exposed to CSE expressed higher levels of TNFα, SNAIL, IL6 and IL8 mRNA as well as SNAIL, Vimentin and α-SMA protein. Inhibition of TNFα and NF-κB pathways blocked the effect of CSE. In vivo, intravitreal injection of ARPE-19 cells treated with CSE resulted in more severe PVR compared to mice injected with untreated RPE cells. These studies suggest that the TNFα pathway is involved in the mechanism whereby cigarette smoke increases PVR. Further investigation into the role of TNFα/NF-κB/Snail in driving PVR and pharmacological targeting of these pathways in disease are warranted.

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