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Subconjunctival Lymphatics Respond to VEGFC and Anti-Metabolites in Rabbit and Mouse Eyes

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To characterize and pharmacologically influence subconjunctival lymphatics in rabbit and mouse eyes.


Rabbits received subconjunctival injections of trypan blue or fixable fluorescent dextrans. Bleb-related outflow pathways were quantified. Immunofluorescence for vessel-specific markers (lymphatics [podoplanin and LYVE-1] and blood vessels [CD31]) were performed in native rabbit conjunctiva and after fixable fluorescent dextran injection. Vascular endothelial cell growth factor-C (VEGFC) was injected subconjunctivally in rabbits. mRNA and protein were assessed for the above markers using RT-PCR and Western blot. Alternatively, mouse studies used Prox1-tdTomato transgenic reporter mice. Subconjunctival injection conditions included: no injection, balanced salt solution (BSS), VEGFC, 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and two concentrations of mitomycin-C (MMC). Two mouse injection protocols (short and long) with different follow-up times and number of injections were performed. Mouse eyes were enucleated, flat mounts created, and subconjunctival branching and length assessed.


Rabbit eyes demonstrated clear bleb-related subconjunctival outflow pathways that were distinct from blood vessels and were without nasal/temporal predilection. Immunofluorescence against vessel-specific markers showed lymphatics and blood vessels in rabbit conjunctiva, and these lymphatics overlapped with bleb-related subconjunctival outflow pathways. Subconjunctival VEGFC increased lymphatic (P = 0.004-0.04) but not blood vessel (P = 0.77-0.84) mRNA or protein in rabbits. Prox1-tdTomato transgenic reporter mice demonstrated natively fluorescent lymphatics. Subconjunctival VEGFC increased murine lymphatic branching and length (P ≤ 0.001-0.004) while antimetabolites (P ≤ 0.001-0.043) did the opposite for the long protocol.


Subconjunctival lymphatics are pharmacologically responsive to both VEGFC and antimetabolites in two animal models studied using different methodologies. These results may be important for bleb-forming glaucoma surgeries or ocular drug delivery.

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