Mechanobiology of conjunctival epithelial cells exposed to wall shear stresses

Michal Sosnovsky, Uri Zaretsky, Ariel J. Jaffa, Dan Grisaru, David Elad*, Mordechai Rosner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The human conjunctival epithelial cells (HCEC) line the inner sides of the eyelids and the anterior part of the sclera. They include goblet cells that secret mucus into the tear film that protects the ocular surface. The conjunctival epithelium is subjected to mechano-physical stimuli due to eyelid movement during blinking, during wiping and rubbing the eyes, and when exposed to wind and air currents. We cultured primary HCEC under air–liquid interface (ALI) conditions in custom-designed wells that can be disassembled for installation of the in vitro model in a flow chamber. We exposed the HCEC after ALI culture of 8–10 days to steady and oscillatory airflows. The in vitro model of HCEC was exposed to steady wall shear stresses (sWSS) of 0.5 and 1.0 dyne/cm2 for lengths of 30 and 60 min and to oscillatory wall shear stresses (oWSS) of 0.5 and 0.77 dyne/cm2 amplitudes for a length of 10 min. Cytoskeletal alterations and MUC5AC mucin secretion in response to WSS were investigated using immunohistochemically fluorescent staining and enzyme-linked lectin assay (ELLA), respectively. The results revealed that both exposure times and sWSS values increased the polymerization of F-actin filaments while mucin secretion decreased. However, after a recovery of 24 h in the incubator we observed a decrease of F-actin fibers and mucin secretion only for exposure of 30 min. The length of exposure was more influential on cytoskeletal alterations than the level of sWSS. The very small effect of sWSS on mucin secretion is most likely related to the much smaller amount of goblet cell than in other mucus-secreting tissue. The results for both oWSS amplitudes revealed similar trends regarding F-actin and mucin secretion. Immediately post-exposure we observed an increase in polymerization of F-actin filaments while mucin secretion decreased. However, after 24-h recovery we observed that both F-actin and mucin secretion returned to the same values as for unexposed cultures. The results of this study suggest that WSS should be considered while exploring the physiological characteristics of HCEC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1903-1917
Number of pages15
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1481/18


    • Air–liquid interface (ALI)
    • Custom-designed well
    • Eyelid
    • Goblet cells
    • Mechanobiology
    • Mucin 5AC


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