2Department of Ophthalmology, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
University of Reading, United Kingdom
The IKKβ is known to regulate transcription factor NF-κB activation leading to inflammatory responses. Recent gene knockout studies have shown that IKKβ can orchestrate local inflammatory responses and regulate homeostasis of epithelial tissues. To investigate whether IKKβ has an intrinsic role in epithelial cells, we established an in vivo system in the immune privileged corneal epithelium. We generated triple transgenicKrt12rtTA/rtTAt/tet-O-Cre/IkkβF/F (IkkβΔCE/ΔCE) mice by crossing the Krt12-rtTA knock-in mice, which express the reverse tetracycline transcription activator in corneal epithelial cells, with the tet-O-Cre andIkkβF/F mice. Doxcycline-induced IKKβ ablation occurred in corneal epithelial cells of triple transgenicIkkβΔCE/ΔCE mice, but loss of IKKβ did not cause ocular abnormalities in fetal development and postnatal maintenance. Instead, loss of IKKβ significantly delayed healing of corneal epithelial debridement without affecting cell proliferation, apoptosis or macrophage infiltration. In vitro studies with human corneal epithelial cells (HCEpi) also showed that IKKβ was required for cytokine-induced cell migration and wound closure but was dispensable for cell proliferation. In both in vivo and in vitro settings, IKKβ was required for optimal activation of NF-κB and p38 signaling in corneal epithelial cells, and p38 activation is likely mediated through formation of an IKKβ-p38 protein complex. Thus, our studies in corneal epithelium reveal a previously un-recognized role for IKKβ in the control of epithelial cell motility and wound healing.