The relationship between aquaporin (AQP) 5 and mucin (MUC) 5AC in the conjunctiva was investigated in response to acute dry eye (DE) stress. A mixed-mechanism rabbit DE model, in which the main lacrimal gland, Harderian gland, and nictitating membrane were resected, was further explored in this study. Conjunctival impression cytology specimens were harvested before excision (BE) and up to 3 months after excision (AE) in 8 (16 eyes) male New Zealand White rabbits, and immunoblotting was employed to assess the expression of AQP5 and MUC5AC. It was observed that AQP5 and MUC5AC showed a positive, synchronous expression pattern with progressive upregulation at protein level up to 2 months AE. At 3 months, the expression of both proteins decreased, but was still higher than that of BE. Such a synchronous relationship was further observed in mouse conjunctiva epithelium primary cells under hyperosmotic condition. Moreover, the co-immunoprecipitation of AQP5 and MUC5AC suggested a possible physical interaction between the two molecules. Our data indicates that conjunctival AQP5 and MUC5AC act synchronously in response to acute DE stress.
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