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Immunohistochemical evaluation of lymphocyte populations in the nictitans glands of normal dogs and dogs with keratoconjunctivitis sicca

David L. Williams
Alice Tighe


Idiopathic canine keratoconjunctivitis sicca (iKCS) is a common condition of the canine eye involving a deficiency in aqueous tear production which is commonly held to have an immune-mediated, as most probably an autoimmune aetiopathogenesis. Yet to date no direct evaluation has been made of the inflammatory cell populations in the lacrimal tissue of dogs with iKCS. Here we sought to quantify T and B lymphocyte populations in the lacrimal tissue of the nictitans glands of dogs with iKCS those with neurological KCS (nKCS)and also in dogs with tear production within the recognized normal levels and no ocular surface signs of KCS. Nictitans glands were obtained from 10 healthy dogs with no signs or history consistent with KCS at post-mortem or after enucleation. Nictitans glands were also obtained at parotid duct transposition surgery from ten dogs with idiopathic KCS and three with neurogenic KCS. Histological sections form the lacrimal tissue were processed immunohistochemically with primary monoclonal antibodies recognizing the T lymphocyte CD3 antigen and the B lymphocyte CD79a antigen. Cell numbers were counted in 10 randomly sampled representative high-power fields in five sections. Statistical significance of differences in cell numbers was determined using analysis of variance with significance achieved at p=0.05.Nictitans glands from dogs with iKCS showed elevated numbers of T and B lymphocytes compared with those from dogs with normal tear production. The increase in the T cell population was highly statistically significant (p=0.0025) while the increase in B cells, while statistically significant was less pronouncedly so (p=0.049). T and B lymphocyte numbers were not significantly elevated in nictitans glands from dogs with neurogenic KCS compared with those in dogs with normal tear production. The elevation in the T cell population seen in dogs with idiopathic KCS strongly supports the widely held assumption that this disease is an immune-mediated and probably autoimmune. The lack of increase in T cell populations in dogs with nKCS strongly suggests that the changes in iKCS are causing the tear deficiency and not resulting from it.

Keywords: Autoimmunity, Dog, Eye, Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, Lymphocyte

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eISSN: 2218-6050
print ISSN: 2226-4485