Functional TRPV1 expression in human corneal fibroblasts

Yuanquan Yang, Hua Yang, Zheng Wang, Stefan Mergler, J. Mario Wolosin, Peter S. Reinach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Corneal wound healing in mice subsequent to an alkali burn results in dysregulated inflammation and opacification. Transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (TRPV1) channel activation in all tissue layers by endogenous ligands contributes to this sight compromising outcome since in TRPV1 knockout mice wound healing results instead in tissue transparency restoration. However, it is not known if primary human stromal fibroblasts exhibit such expression even though functional TRPV1 expression is evident in an immortalized human corneal epithelial cell line. In primary human corneal fibroblasts (HCF), TRPV1 gene expression and localization were identified based on the results of quantitative RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry, respectively. Western blot analysis identified a 100 kD protein corresponding to TRPV1 protein expression in a positive control. Single-cell fluorescence imaging detected in fura2-AM loaded cells Ca2+ transients that rose 1.8-fold above the baseline induced by a selective TRPV1 agonist, capsaicin (CAP), which were blocked by a TRPV1 antagonist, capsazepine (CPZ) or exposure to a Ca2+ free medium. The whole-cell mode of the planar patch-clamp technique identified TRPV1-induced currents that rose 1.76-fold between -60 and +130 mV. CAP-induced time dependent changes in the phosphorylation status of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling mediators that led to a 2.5-fold increase in IL-6 release after 24 h. This rise did not occur either in TRPV1 siRNA gene silenced cells or during exposure to SB203580 (10 μM), a selective p38 MAPK inhibitor. Taken together, identification of functional TRPV1 expression in HCF suggests that in vivo its activation by injury contributes to corneal opacification and inflammation during wound healing. These undesirable effects may result in part from increases in IL-6 expression mediated by p-p38 MAPK signaling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-129
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Ca2+ transient
  • Cornea fibroblasts
  • Inflammation
  • P38 MAPK
  • Scarring
  • TRPV1


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