The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of sphingosine kinase 1 (SphK1), which generates sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), in corneal neovascularization (NV). Wild-type (WT) and Sphk1 knockout (Sphk1−/−) mice received corneal alkali-burn treatment to induce corneal NV by placing a 2 mm round piece of Whatman No. 1 filter paper soaked in 1N NaOH on the center of the cornea for 20 s. Corneal sphingolipid species were extracted and identified using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS). The total number of tip cells and those positive for ethynyl deoxy uridine (EdU) were quantified. Immunocytochemistry was done to examine whether pericytes were present on newly forming blood vessels. Cytokine signaling and angiogenic markers were compared between the two groups using multiplex assays. Data were analyzed using appropriate statistical tests. Here, we show that ablation of SphK1 can significantly reduce NV invasion in the cornea following injury. Corneal sphingolipid analysis showed that total levels of ceramides, monohexosyl ceramides (HexCer), and sphingomyelin were significantly elevated in Sphk−/− corneas compared to WT corneas, with a comparable level of sphingosine among the two genotypes. The numbers of total and proliferating endothelial tip cells were also lower in the Sphk1−/− corneas following injury. This study underscores the role of S1P in post-injury corneal NV and raises further questions about the roles played by ceramide, HexCer, and sphingomyelin in regulating corneal NV. Further studies are needed to unravel the role played by bioactive sphingolipids in maintenance of corneal transparency and clear vision.
- sphingosine kinase 1