Oxidative Stress Induces a Breakdown of the Cytoskeleton and Tight Junctions of the Corneal Endothelial Cells.
Purpose: To investigate the impact of oxidative stress, which is a hallmark of Fuchs dystrophy, on the barrier function of the corneal endothelial cells. Methods: Experiments were carried out with cultured bovine and porcine corneal endothelial cells. For oxidative stress, cells were supplemented with riboflavin (Rf) and exposed to UV-A (15-30 min) to induce Type-1 photochemical reactions that release H2O2. The effect of the stress on the barrier function was assayed by transendothelial electrical resistance (TER) measurement. In addition, the associated changes in the organization of the microtubules, perijunctional actomyosin ring (PAMR), and ZO-1 were evaluated by immunocytochemistry, which was also repeated after direct exposure to H2O2 (100 μM, 1 h). Results: Exposure to H2O2 led to the disassembly of microtubules and the destruction of PAMR. In parallel, the contiguous locus of ZO-1 was disrupted, marking a loss of barrier integrity. Accordingly, a sustained loss in TER was induced when cells in the Rf-supplemented medium were exposed to UV-A. However, the addition of catalase (7,000 U/mL) to rapidly decompose H2O2 limited the loss in TER. Furthermore, the adverse effects on microtubules, PAMR, and ZO-1 were suppressed by including catalase, ascorbic acid (1 mM; 30 min), or pretreatment with p38 MAP kinase inhibitor (SB-203580; 10 μM, 1 h). Conclusions: Acute oxidative stress induces microtubule disassembly by a p38 MAP kinase-dependent mechanism, leading to the destruction of PAMR and loss of barrier function. The response to oxidative stress is reminiscent of the (TNF-α)-induced breakdown of barrier failure in the corneal endothelium.