Evaluation of marketed eye drops with or without trehalose, a nonreducing natural osmoprotector disaccharide, in autophagy modulation and its role in cell survival during desiccation. Eye drops containing either sodium hyaluronate (SH) (Hyabak, Thea, France) or a combination of SH with trehalose (Thealose Duo, Thea, France) were compared with control conditions to evaluate the ability to modulate autophagy in human epithelial cells . Autophagy was monitored using LC3, a marker of the autophagic machinery, by fluorescence microscopy and immunoblot analysis. Control and autophagy-deficient cells treated with eye drops were exposed to desiccation to mimic dry eyes and cell survival was evaluated by thiazolyl blue tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. Trehalose, a known autophagy inducer was used as a positive control. Artificial tears containing SH with and without trehalose induce a complete autophagic flux, as indicated by an increase in the number of autophagosomes and autolysosomes, and the accumulation of the lipidated form of LC3 associated with complete autophagy. In addition, there was a synergistic effect of SH for autophagy induction when combined with trehalose, compared with each of the components alone. Survival of cells treated with both eye drops and exposed to desiccation was decreased in autophagy-deficient cells, demonstrating the essential role of autophagy on eye drop protection. Autophagic flux is induced by SH-containing eye drops, and this phenomenon is enhanced in combination with trehalose. We also demonstrated that autophagy induction is involved in the osmoprotective effects of both trehalose and SH-containing eye drops, to maintain epithelial cell homeostasis in dry conditions.
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