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Baudouin, Christophe; Rolando, Maurizio; Benitez Del Castillo, Jose M.; Messmer, Elisabeth M.; Figueiredo, Francisco C.; Irkec, Murat; Van Setten, Gysbert and Labetoulle, Marc (2019): Reconsidering the central role of mucins in dry eye and ocular surface diseases. In: Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, Vol. 71: pp. 68-87

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Mucins are key actors in tear film quality and tear film stability. Alteration of membrane-bound mucin expression on corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells and/or gel-forming mucin secretion by goblet cells (GCs) promotes in ocular surface diseases and dry eye disease (DED). Changes in the mucin layer may lead to enhanced tear evaporation eventually contributing to tear hyperosmolarity which has been associated with ocular surface inflammation. Inflammatory mediators in turn may have a negative impact on GCs differentiation, proliferation, and mucin secretion. This sheds new light on the position of GCs in the vicious circle of DED. As contributor to ocular surface immune homeostasis, GC loss may contribute to impaired ocular surface immune tolerance observed in DED. In spite of this, there are no tools in routine clinical practice for exploring ocular surface mucin deficiency/dysregulation. Therefore, when selecting the most appropriate treatment options, there is a clear unmet need for a better understanding of the importance of mucins and options for their replacement. Here, we comprehensively revisited the current knowledge on ocular surface mucin biology, including functions, synthesis, and secretion as well as the available diagnostic tools and treatment options to improve mucin-associated homeostasis. In particular, we detailed the potential link between mucin dysfunction and inflammation as part of the uncontrolled chronic inflammation which perpetuates the vicious circle in DED.

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