Characterization of T-lymphocytes in the anterior uvea of eyes with chronic equine recurrent uveitis

Brian C. Gilger, Emily Malok, Katherine V. Cutter, Tammy Stewart, David W. Horohov, Janice B. Allen

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111 Scopus citations


Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU), a chronic, recurrent inflammation primarily of the anterior uveal tract, is the most common cause of blindness in horses. Recently, T-lymphocytes have been found to be the most numerous cell type to infiltrate the anterior uveal of horses with ERU. In the present study, we characterized the T-lymphocyte population in the anterior uveal tract of eyes of horses with chronic ERU by evaluating the microscopic appearance (histopathologic features), the T-lymphocyte subsets, and the relative levels and amounts of T-lymphocyte cytokine mRNA in the anterior uvea. Seven inflamed eyes (from six horses with chronic ERU) and 5 normal eyes (from five horses with nonocular problems) were studied. After clinical examination, the eyes were removed, ocular fluids were aspirated, and anterior uveal tissues (iris and ciliary body) were processed for histologic and molecular (RNA isolation) analyses. Histologic examination by hematoxylin and eosin (H and E) staining and immunohistochemistry evaluating T-lymphocyte subsets (anti-CD4, CD8, CD5) were performed for each sample. RNA samples were analyzed for levels of messenger (m) RNA specific for interleukin (IL)-2, 4, and interferon-γ (IFNγ) by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (QRT-PCR). Eyes with ERU exhibited characteristic clinical signs, including corneal edema, aqueous flare, posterior synechia, corpora nigra degeneration, and cataract formation. Histologically, infiltration of the uveal tract with lymphocytes, plasma cells, and macrophages was most evident in the ciliary body and base of the iris. Loss of tissue structure (destruction) was most evident in the ciliary processes. Infiltrating lymphocytes were predominantly CD4+ T-cells (e.g. 48% CD4+ and 18% CD8+ in the ciliary body stroma), as determined by immunohistochemistry. Few inflammatory cells were observed in the normal eyes. The QRT-PCR results revealed increased transcription of IL-2 and IFNγ and low IL-4 mRNA expression in eyes with chronic ERU compared to normal eyes, demonstrating a T(helper) (Th) 1-like inflammatory response in eyes with ERU. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-28
Number of pages12
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the technical assistance provided by Arden Bond, Duncan Morgan, Jennifer Friemann, Chad Vanderhayden, and Gina Neri. This work was supported, in part, by the State of North Carolina, the Veterinary Equine Research Center Foundation, grants #EY11364 (JA), from the NEI, the Louisiana State University Equine Veterinary Research Program, and the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation (DH).


  • Cytokines
  • Equine
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • T-lymphocyte
  • Uveitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • General Veterinary


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