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Expression of involucrin by ocular surface epithelia of patients with benign and malignant disorders.

Current Eye Research 2000 November
PURPOSE: Keratinization of the ocular surface epithelium is associated with various disorders impairing vision. We immunohistochemically determined whether the ocular surface epithelia express involucrin, and whether its expression pattern may differ in benign vs. malignant disorders. Expression of cytokeratins was also examined to provide further information relative to the epithelial differentiation.

METHODS: We evaluated 17 specimens; 6 specimens of the normal ocular surface epithelia, 3 specimens from cases of conjunctival intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), 6 of conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and 2 of conjunctivae from cases of superior limbic keratoconjunctivitis (SLK).

RESULTS: Corneal epithelium exhibited intracellular immunoreactivity for involucrin. Four of the 6 specimens of bulbar conjunctival epithelium showed involucrin immunoreactivity in the perimembranous region, whereas the fornical conjunctiva was negative. Cornified envelope in SLK specimens was positive for involucrin. The CIN showed its immunoreactivity in the perimembranous region in all levels of the hyperproliferative epithelium without keratinization, i.e., similar to the bulbar conjunctiva. The neoplastic cells of well-differentiated SCC showed involucrin in the perimembranous region, and those of moderately- to poorly-differentiated SCC have involucrin in their cytoplasm. The expression pattern of cytokeratins was unrelated to grade of malignancy in ocular SCC.

CONCLUSION: The epithelia of normal subjects and of CIN expresses involucrin without keratinization. In contrary, the keratinized SLK epithelium markedly expresses involucrin in the cornified envelope. The subcellular immunolocalization of involucrin in the ocular SCC may help in evaluating the differentiation, i.e., malignancy, of neoplastic cells.

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