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Immunology - Ophthalmology

Corneal Alternations Induced by Topical Application of Benzalkonium Chloride in Rabbit
Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Author: Wensheng Chen et al.

by Wensheng Chen, Zhiyuan Li, Jiaoyue Hu, Zhenhao Zhang, Lelei Chen, Yongxiong Chen, Zuguo Liu

Benzalkonium chloride (BAC) is the most common preservative in ophthalmic preparations. Here, we investigated the corneal alternations in rabbits following exposure to BAC. Twenty-four adult male New Zealand albino rabbits were randomly divided into three groups. BAC at 0.01%, 0.05%, or 0.1% was applied twice daily to one eye each of rabbits for 4 days. The contralateral untreated eyes were used as control. Aqueous tear production and fluorescein staining scores of BAC-treated eyes were compared with those of controls. The structure of the central cornea was examined by in vivo confocal microscopy. Expression of mucin-5 subtype AC (MUC5AC) in conjunctiva was detected by immunostainig on cryosections. Corneal barrier function was assessed in terms of permeability to carboxy fluorescein (CF). The distribution and expression of ZO-1, a known marker of tight junction, and reorganization of the perijunctional actomyosin ring (PAMR) were examined by immunofluorescence analysis. Although there were no significant differences between control and BAC-treated eyes in Schirmer scores, corneal fluorescein scores and the number of conjunctival MUC5AC staining cells, in vivo confocal microscopy revealed significant epithelial and stromal defects in all BAC-treated corneas. Moreover, BAC at 0.1% resulted in significant increases in central corneal thickness and endothelial CF permeability, compared with those in control eyes, and endothelial cell damage with dislocation of ZO-1 and disruption of PAMR. Topical application of BAC can quickly impair the whole cornea without occurrence of dry eye. A high concentration of BAC breaks down the barrier integrity of corneal endothelium, concomitant with the disruption of PAMR and remodeling of apical junctional complex in vivo.