Tear Fluid Inflammatory Proteome Analysis Highlights Similarities Between Keratoconus and Allergic Conjunctivitis

Marlies Gijs*, Tuneille I. Adelaar, Daphne P.C. Vergouwen, Nienke Visser, Mor M. Dickman, Robin C.I. Ollivier, Tos T.J.M. Berendschot, Rudy M.M.A. Nuijts

*Corresponding author for this work

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Keratoconus is characterized by the progressive thinning of the cornea, which leads to a cone-like appearance of the eye over time. Although conventionally defined as a noninflammatory condition, a number of recent studies have associated keratoconus (KC) with allergic conjunctivitis (AC) based on clinical parameters. This study aimed to consolidate this association by performing a proteomic analysis of tear fluid from patients with keratoconus and/or allergic conjunctivitis. 


Of 51 patients, 17 were diagnosed with KC, 17 were diagnosed with AC, and 17 were diagnosed with both KC and AC (combined). Nine of 34 patients with KC had a progressive form of the disease. Tear fluid samples (n = 51, one eye per patient) were collected by the Schirmer's strips. Tear proteins were extracted from the Schirmer's strips. Proteomic profiling of 384 inflammatory proteins was assessed by a multiplex proximity extension assay (Olink Explore 384 Inflammation Panel I). 


A total of 384 inflammatory proteins were measured. Two hundred seventy-two of the 384 proteins passed stringent data cleaning and were compared among the patient groups. Compared to the 2 other groups, LGALS9 was upregulated uniquely in KC, whereas FGF19, PDGFB, HPCAL1, OSM, and FCAR were downregulated in KC. Similarly, TNFRSF4 and CCL13 were specifically upregulated in AC, whereas ectodysplasin A receptor (EDAR) was uniquely downregulated in AC. 


High-throughput proteomic profiling of tear fluid confirms the association between KC and AC on a molecular level and raise the importance of redefining KC as an inflammatory condition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)9
Number of pages1
JournalInvestigative ophthalmology & visual science
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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