Research ArticleEYE DISEASE

Neutrophils cause obstruction of eyelid sebaceous glands in inflammatory eye disease in mice

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Science Translational Medicine  25 Jul 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 451, eaas9164
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aas9164

Inflammatory obstruction in the eye

Obstruction of eyelid glands called meibomian glands (MGs) is a risk factor for developing chronic inflammation of the eyelids. The function of these glands is to secrete oils onto the surface of the eye. The etiology of MG obstruction is not completely understood. Now, Reyes et al. have discovered that polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) promoted MG obstruction in a mouse model of inflammatory eye disease. Furthermore, PMNs were increased in tears of patients with MG obstruction, and PMN number correlated with the severity of the obstruction. The data suggest that PMNs might contribute to the etiology of MG obstruction in inflammatory eyelid disease.


Meibomian glands (MGs) are sebaceous glands of the eyelid margin that secrete lipids needed to avert tear evaporation and to help maintain ocular surface homeostasis. Obstruction of MGs or other forms of MG dysfunction can promote chronic diseases of the ocular surface. Although chronic eyelid inflammation, such as allergic eye disease, is an associated risk factor for obstructive MG dysfunction, it is not clear whether inflammatory processes contribute to the pathophysiology of MG obstruction. We show that polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) promoted MG obstruction in a chronic inflammatory model of allergic eye disease in mice. Analysis of leukocytes in tears of patients with MG dysfunction showed an increase in PMN numbers compared to healthy subjects. Moreover, PMN numbers in tears positively correlated with clinical severity of MG dysfunction. Our findings point to a role for PMNs in the pathogenesis and progression of MG dysfunction.

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