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Role of VIP and Sonic Hedgehog signaling pathways in mediating epithelial wound healing, sensory nerve regeneration and their defects in diabetic corneas

posted on 28.04.2020 by Ada Admin, Yangyang Zhang, Nan Gao, Lin Wu, Patrick S. Y. Lee, Rao Me, Chenyang Dai, Lixin Xie, Fu-shin X. Yu
Diabetic Keratopathy, a sight-threatening corneal disease, comprises several symptomatic conditions including delayed epithelial wound healing, recurrent erosions, and sensory nerve (SN) neuropathy. We investigated the role of neuropeptides in mediating corneal wound healing, including epithelial wound closure and SN regeneration. Denervation by Resiniferatoxin severely impaired corneal wound healing and markedly up-regulated pro-inflammatory gene expression. Exogenous neuropeptides CGRP, SP, and VIP partially reversed Resiniferatoxin’s effects, with VIP specifically inducing IL-10 expression. Hence, we focused on VIP and observed that wounding induced VIP and VIPR1 expression in normal (NL), but not diabetic (DM) mouse corneas. Targeting VIPR1 in NL corneas attenuated corneal wound healing, dampened wound-induced expression of neurotrophic factors, and exacerbated inflammatory responses while exogenous VIP had the opposite effects in DM corneas. Remarkably, wounding and diabetes also affected the expression of Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) in a VIP-dependent manner. Downregulating SHH expression in NL corneas decreased, while exogenous SHH in DM corneas increased the rates of corneal wound healing. Furthermore, inhibition of SHH signaling dampened VIP-promoted corneal wound healing. We conclude that VIP regulates epithelial wound healing, inflammatory response, and nerve regeneration in the corneas in a SHH-dependent manner, suggesting a therapeutic potential for these molecules in treating diabetic keratopathy.


We acknowledge support from NIH/NEI R01EY10869, EY17960 (to F.Y.), EY025923 (to P.L.), p30 EY004068 (NEI core to WSU), Research to Prevent Blindness (to Kresge Eye Institute).