A new model of orthotopic penetrating corneal transplantation in the sheep: Graft survival, phenotypes of graft-infiltrating cells and local cytokine production

K. A. Williams, S. D. Standfield, Rad Mills, T. Takano, D. F.P. Larkin, R. Krishnan, G. R. Russ, D. J. Coster

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Orthotopic penetrating keratoplasty in the sheep was developed as an outbred preclinical model to allow correlation of the cellular infiltrate during graft rejection with local production of cytokine mRNA. Methods: Penetrating corneal autografts and allografts were performed in Merino sheep. Graft outcome was followed at the slit-lamp. Corneal infiltrates were examined by immunoperoxidase staining on postmortem specimens. Cytokine mRNA was detected by polymerase chain reaction. Results: Corneal autografts survived indefinitely. Allografts became vascularized and underwent rejection at a median of 20 days postgraft. Both endothelial and epithelial rejection lines were observed. Immunohistochemical staining of rejecting grafts showed up-regulation of major histocompatibility complex class I molecules on corneal graft epithelium, damaged or absent graft endothelium and a marked, predominantly mononuclear cell infiltrate. CD4-positive T cells were observed in the graft within 2 days of the onset of rejection, followed several days later by CD8-positive T cells. Messenger RNA transcripts for interleukin (IL)-2, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and IL-10 (but not for interferon (IFN)-γ or IL-4) were found in autografted corneas. Proportionately, more allografts than autografts contained transcripts for IL-2 and TNF-α, and IFN-γ was detected in three of four allografts. Conclusions: Corneal graft rejection in the sheep is macroscopically and histologically similar to human corneal graft rejection. Allografts become infiltrated by both CD4- and CD8-positive T cells and local production of pro-inflammatory cytokines occurs during graft rejection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-135
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Corneal transplantation
  • Cytokines
  • Rejection
  • Sheep
  • T cell infiltrate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology

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