Corneal graft rejection occurs despite Fas ligand expression and apoptosis of infiltrating cells

Keryn A. Williams, S. D. Standfield, J. R. Smith, D. J. Coster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background/aims: Constitutive expression of Fas ligand (CD95L) protects the eye against cell mediated immune responses by inducing apoptosis in infiltrating Fas bearing T cells. This study was designed to examine Fas ligand expression on acutely rejecting rat corneal grafts and to investigate the kinetics of induction of apoptosis in infiltrating leucocytes. Methods: Orthotopic penetrating corneal transplantation was performed between genetically disparate inbred rats. Fas ligand expression and the phenotype of infiltrating leucocytes were examined by immunohistochemistry. Apoptotic nuclei were visualised in sections of normal rat cornea, rejecting allografts, and time matched isografts by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase mediated dUTP biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL) and quantified by video image analysis. Staining with Hoechst dye 33258 was used to confirm the presence of apoptotic nuclei. Results: Fas ligand was expressed on corneal endothelial and epithelial cells during acute corneal graft rejection. At all time points examined, including as early as the fifth postoperative day, the cells infiltrating both corneal isografts and allografts were TUNEL positive. By the 15th postoperative day, over 90% of all nuclei, many of which were T cells, were apoptotic. Conclusion: Expression of Fas ligand is not downregulated on the cornea during allograft rejection and infiltrating leucocytes in both isografts and allografts die rapidly in situ. Despite the death of the cells believed to be responsible for rejection, isografts survive indefinitely whereas allografts are irreparably damaged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-638
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished or Issued - May 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Cite this