Purpose: To study the expression of S100 A and B family proteins in normal human limbus and to analyze modification of the expression in inflammatory conditions. Methods: The total expression of members of the S100 family and the expression of A4, A8, A9, and B individually were evaluated in nine normal human corneal limbi, collected from cadaver healthy donors, in particular in the limbal epithelial crypts (LECs), and in five inflamed limbi obtained from enucleated eyes. S100 protein distribution was determined with immunohistochemistry staining analysis. Results: Cytoplasmic expression of total S100 proteins was observed in 100% of LECs; in contrast, the inflamed tissues were completely negative, and faint positivity was observed in only one case. Moreover, cytoplasmic expression of S100 A4 and A9 was uniformly found in the entire LECs in all samples analyzed, while S100 A8 positivity was observed in only 44.4% of cases and only in the cells localized in the central area of the LEC. Positivity for S100 B was not observed in all samples analyzed. Conclusions: As reported in the literature, normal limbal epithelial cells show strong expression of S100 proteins. A novel finding of this study was the expression for the limbal epithelial crypts. In particular, S100 A4 and A9, which are normally involved in regulating a wide range of biologic effects, including cell motility, survival, and differentiation, are the most expressed members in healthy limbal crypts. In inflamed tissues, expression of S100 proteins was dramatically decreased. S100 proteins, and in particular S100 A4 and S100 A9, can be useful as markers of early changes in stem cell niches due to inflammation.
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