Purpose. To evaluate whether interleukin-8 (IL-8) and RANTES (regulated on activation, normal T-cell expressed and secreted) concentrations in the supernatants of conjunctival epithelial samples from patients with vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) correlate with the number of infiltrating eosinophils or neutrophils and with the severity of corneal lesions. Methods. Thirty-four patients with VKC, 5 patients with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, and 10 volunteers without allergic diseases were enrolled in this study. Conjunctival epithelial cells were collected by brush cytology and the number of inflammatory cells was counted. The chemokine expression in the cells was investigated by immunocytochemistry and the chemokine concentrations of the cell suspensions were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results. The percentages of eosinophils and neutrophils in cell suspensions from VKC patients with corneal erosion or ulcer were higher than those from subjects with clear corneas or superficial punctate keratopathy. IL-8 concentrations in the supernatant of samples correlated significantly with the percentages of neutrophils and eosinophils in paired cell suspensions. No correlation was observed between RANTES and the percentages of eosinophils. Positive staining for IL-8 was observed in the cytosol of conjunctival epithelial cells. Conclusion. IL-8 in the extracellular space of the conjunctival epithelium may play a role in the recruitment of neutrophils and possibly eosinophils and in the pathogenesis of corneal damage in severe allergic diseases.
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