ADAM17 inhibitors attenuate corneal epithelial detachment induced by mustard exposure

Andrea DeSantis-Rodrigues, Yoke Chen Chang, Rita A. Hahn, Iris P. Po, Peihong Zhou, C. Jeffrey Lacey, Abhilash Pillai, Sherri C. Young, Robert A. Flowers, Michael A. Gallo, Jeffrey D. Laskin, Donald R. Gerecke, Kathy K.H. Svoboda, Ned D. Heinde, Marion K. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard (NM), and 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide all cause corneal injury with epithelial–stromal separation, differing only by degree. Injury can resolve in a few weeks or develop into chronic corneal problems. These vesicants induce microbullae at the epithelial–stromal junction, which is partially caused by cleavage of transmembranous hemidesmosomal collagen XVII, a component anchoring the epithelium to the stroma. ADAM17 is an enzyme involved in wound healing and is able to cleave collagen XVII. The activity of ADAM17 was inhibited in vesicant-exposed corneas by four different hydroxamates, to evaluate their therapeutic potential when applied 2 hours after exposure, thereby allowing ADAM17 to perform its early steps in wound healing. METHODS. Rabbit corneal organ cultures exposed to NM for 2 hours were washed, then incubated at 37°C for 22 hours, with or without one of the four hydroxamates (dose range, 0.3–100 nmol in 20 mL, applied four times). Corneas were analyzed by light and immunofluorescence microscopy, and ADAM17 activity assays. RESULTS. Nitrogen mustard–induced corneal injury showed significant activation of ADAM17 levels accompanying epithelial–stromal detachment. Corneas treated with hydroxamates starting 2 hours post exposure showed a dose-dependent ADAM17 activity inhibition up to concentrations of 3 nmol. Of the four hydroxamates, NDH4417 (N-octyl-N-hydroxy-2-[4- hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl] acetamide) was most effective for inhibiting ADAM17 and retaining epithelial–stromal attachment. CONCLUSIONS. Mustard exposure leads to corneal epithelial sloughing caused, in part, by the activation of ADAM17 at the epithelial–stromal junction. Select hydroxamate compounds applied 2 hours after NM exposure mitigated epithelial–stromal separation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1687-1698
Number of pages12
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • ADAM17
  • CEES
  • Corneal injury
  • Hydroxamate
  • Nitrogen mustard
  • TACE


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