Korean J Parasitol.  2019 Jun;57(3):217-223. 10.3347/kjp.2019.57.3.217.

Cytopathic Change and Inflammatory Response of Human Corneal Epithelial Cells Induced by Acanthamoeba castellanii Trophozoites and Cysts

  • 1Department of Microbiology, Ajou University School of medicine, and Department of Biomedical Science, Graduate School of Ajou University, Suwon 16499, Korea. hjshin@ajou.ac.kr


Acanthamoeba castellanii has ubiquitous distribution and causes primary acanthamoebic keratitis (AK). AK is a common disease in contact lens wearers and results in permanent visual impairment or blindness. In this study, we observed the cytopathic effect, in vitro cytotoxicity, and secretion pattern of cytokines in human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) induced by A. castellanii trophozoites and/or cysts. Morphological observation revealed that panked dendritic HCECs co-cultured with amoeba cysts had changed into round shape and gradually died. Such changes were more severe in co-culture with cyst than those of co-cultivation with trophozoites. In vitro cytotoxicity assay revealed the highest cytotoxicity to HCECs in the co-culture system with amoeba cysts. A. castellanii induced the expression of IL-1α, IL-6, IL-8, and CXCL1 in HCECs. Secreted levels of IL-1α, IL-6, and IL-8 in HCECs co-cultured with both trophozoites and cysts were increased at an early incubation time (3 and 6 hr). These results suggested that cytopathic changes and pro-inflammatory cytokines release of HCECs in response to A. castellanii, especially amoebic cysts, are an important mechanism for AK development.


Acanthamoeba castellanii; acanthamoebic keratitis; human corneal epithelial cell; cytotoxicity; pro-inflammatory cytokine
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