Nerve growth factor and corneal wound healing in dogs

Heung Myong Woo, Ellison Bentley, Sean F. Campbell, Carl F. Marfurt, Christopher J Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Nerve growth factor in the tear film and corneal epithelium is hypothesized to play an important role in ocular surface maintenance and corneal wound healing. The purpose of this study was to determine the expression of nerve growth factor and its high affinity (trkA) receptor in tears, cornea, and lacrimal glands of normal dogs, the modulation of nerve growth factor and its trkA receptor during corneal wound healing, and the effect of topical nerve growth factor application on canine corneal epithelial wound healing. In the first of three experiments, the nerve growth factor content of tears, corneal epithelium, lacrimal gland, and 3rd eyelid gland was determined in normal dogs by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and the expression of nerve growth factor and its trkA receptor were evaluated in the cornea and lacrimal glands by immunohistochemistry. In a second experiment, unilateral corneal epithelial defects were created, and tissues were evaluated for changes in nerve growth factor or trkA expression for 1 week. In a third experiment, bilateral corneal epithelial defects were created and the right eyes in each animal were treated 4 times daily with either recombinant human nerve growth factor, murine nerve growth factor, or nerve growth factor-blocking antibody. The results of this study showed that nerve growth factor levels in normal dog tears, corneal epithelium, third eyelid gland and lacrimal gland were 15.4±4.6 ng ml-1, 33.5±12.3, 52.4±17.4 and 48.8±9.4 ng g-1, respectively. NGF and trkA receptors were identified by immunohistochemistry in all tissues examined. After unilateral corneal wounding, nerve growth factor concentration increased in the tears bilaterally for 3 days, especially in the wounded eye, and then returned to pre-wounding values. Nerve growth factor content, and immunohistochemical staining for nerve growth factor and trkA, increased significantly in the ipsilateral cornea epithelium following unilateral wounding. Nerve growth factor concentrations in lacrimal and third eyelid glands also increased bilaterally (p<0.01) after unilateral wounding. Time to wound closure and rate of epithelial migration did not differ significantly between nerve growth factor-treated, nerve growth factor antibody-treated, and control eyes. In conclusion, nerve growth factor is present under resting physiologic conditions in normal canine tears, and nerve growth factor and its trkA receptor are present under resting conditions in normal canine corneal epithelium, lacrimal gland and third eyelid gland. Nerve growth factor is elevated in the tears, cornea, and lacrimal glands after corneal epithelial wounding; however, topical application of nerve growth factor, or its blocking antibody does not modulate corneal wound healing in the normal dog eye.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-642
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Canine
  • Corneal wound healing
  • Lacrimal gland
  • Neurotrophin
  • Receptors
  • Tears

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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