Pathogenic role of PPARα downregulation in corneal nerve degeneration and impaired corneal sensitivity in diabetes

H. Greg Matlock, Fangfang Qiu, Volha Malechka, Kelu Zhou, Rui Cheng, Siribhinya Benyajati, Amy Whelchel, Dimitrios Karamichos, Jian Xing Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate the protective role of peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor α (PPARα) against diabetic keratopathy and corneal neuropathy. Corneal samples were obtained from human donors with and without diabetes. Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats and mice were orally treated with PPARα agonist fenofibrate. As shown by immunohistochemistry and Western blotting, PPARα was downregulated in the corneas of humans with diabetes and diabetic rats. Immunostaining of β-III tubulin demonstrated that corneal nerve fiber metrics were decreased significantly in diabetic rats and mice, which were partially prevented by fenofibrate treatment. As evaluated using a Cochet-Bonnet aesthesiometer, corneal sensitivity was significantly decreased in diabetic mice, which was prevented by fenofibrate. PPARa/ mice displayed progressive decreases in the corneal nerve fiber density. Consistently, corneal sensitivity was decreased in PPARa/ mice relative to wild-type mice by 21 months of age. Diabetic mice showed increased incidence of spontaneous corneal epithelial lesion, which was prevented by fenofibrate while exacerbated by PPARa knockout. Western blot analysis revealed significantly altered neurotrophic factor levels in diabetic rat corneas, which were partially restored by fenofibrate treatment. These results indicate that PPARα protects the corneal nerve from degeneration induced by diabetes, and PPARα agonists have therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetic keratopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1291
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathogenic role of PPARα downregulation in corneal nerve degeneration and impaired corneal sensitivity in diabetes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this