The cornea is a transparent, refractive, protective mucosal barrier of the eye. Corneal infections pose a serious threat to healthy vision. Risks of infections increase with injury, surgery, daily contact lens wear and age. Research on antimicrobial proteins and peptides is critical for elucidating natural protective mechanisms in the cornea and therapies based on these. Our proposal focuses on the mammalian peptidoglycan recognition protein (PGLYRP) family of four antimicrobial proteins, which exist in various mucosal barriers, and identified just over a decade ago. We found PGLYRP1, and subsequently others PGLYRP2, -3 and -4 in the human and mouse cornea. Functions of mammalian PGLYRP members are generally underexplored, and in particular little is known of these in the eye. Much more is known of the large PGLYRP family in insects: they are mostly bactericidal, some hydrolyze peptidoglycans (PGN) to restrict inflammation, while others signal to host toll and imd pathways to induce genes of innate immunity and antimicrobial peptides (AMP). Mammalian PGLYRP1, - 3 and -4 are bactericidal against gram positive and negative bacteria, and PGLYRP2 is an amidase. In vitro, they work synergistically with AMPs, synergy in vivo is not known, but suspected. Whether the mammalian PGLYRPs also modulate innate immune signals remains to be fully investigated.. Thus, the mammalian PGLYRPs may represent a new class of antimicrobial immune modulators in the cornea. Our central hypothesis in this R21 proposal is that PGLYRPs in the mammalian cornea may have a dual role in deterring pathogenic bacterial infections while promoting innate immune signals for corneal healing and homeostasis.
Two aims will test this central hypothesis.1) Test antibacterial defense capabilities of Pglyrp1-4 null mice in a Pseudomonas (P).aeruginosa keratitis model. 2a)Test if the PGLYRPs cross talk with innate immune signals (TLR2, 4 and Nod2) in the cornea to up regulate cytokines and b- defensins, and 2b) whether the PGLYRPs expedite corneal healing by promoting epithelial migration. This exploratory study of the PGLYRP family will provide the necessary assessment of its role in the cornea and the groundwork for future detailed studies of each member in promoting corneal health, curbing infections and developing targeted therapies. In the future our study may lead to prophylactic or therapeutic approaches that tweak PGLYRP levels in the corneal epithelium before/after surgery, infection and storage of transplant corneas.
Our findings on this peptidoglycan recognition protein family will elucidate natural antimicrobial defense mechanisms in the cornea, therapeutic/prophylactic strategies for regulating their levels and functions during corneal infections and injury or surgery-related trauma, transplant cornea or contact lens storage.