Original Research

Immunological and antimicrobial molecules in human tears: a review and preliminary report*

R. Schnetler, W. D. H. Gillan, G. Koorsen
African Vision and Eye Health | South African Optometrist: Vol 71, No 3 | a79 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v71i3.79 | © 2012 R. Schnetler, W. D. H. Gillan, G. Koorsen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 December 2012 | Published: 09 December 2012

About the author(s)

R. Schnetler, Department of Biochemistry, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
W. D. H. Gillan, Department of Optometry, South Africa
G. Koorsen, Department of Biochemistry, South Africa

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The human tear film is a multi-layered and chemically complex structure, which performs numerous functions relating to the health of the corneal surface.  One of the core functions of the tear film is to protect the eye against invasion by pathogens.  Thus its middle layer, the ‘core aqueous stratum’, harbours a myriad of immunologicaland antimicrobial proteins. In this review we discuss the most abundant of these proteins (immunoglobulins, toll-like receptors, cytokines, lactoferrin, lysozyme, lipocalins, surfactant protein-Aand -D and defensins).  In order to illustrate how the levels of immunological/antimicrobial proteins in tears change in response to eye disease, we review literature in which levels of these proteins have been measured in tears of patients with dry
eye disease (DED) and keratoconus (KC).  Finally, we report results of a preliminary study to measure the concentration of secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) in the tears of DED and KC patients. The
study showed a significant decrease of sIgA levels  in DED compared to control. Further analysis must be done to determine whether or not DED and KC may be associated with differential expression of immune proteins. (S Afr Optom 2012 71(3) 123-132)


tear proteins; immunological proteins; dry eye disease; keratoconus; antimicrobial proteins


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