In this study, we explored the role of necroptosis in the pathogenesis of ocular surface injury caused by airborne particulate matter (PM). Human corneal epithelial (HCE) cells and mouse ocular surface were treated with PM exposure and compared with non-exposed groups. The expression of necroptosis-related proteins was measured by immunoblotting in HCE cell groups. Cell damages were detected using CCK-8, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescence staining. In the mouse model, hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining and corneal fluorescein sodium staining were assessed. In addition, the expression of inflammatory cytokines and mucin were examined via Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), immunofluorescence staining and/or quantitative RT -PCR (qRT-PCR), both in vitro and in vivo. Our research showed that PM exposure may trigger HCE cell damage via necroptosis. Necrostatin-1(Nec-1), one of the specific inhibitors of necroptosis, can markedly reduce PM-induced HCE cell damage. HCE cell damage markers included decreased cell viability, increased intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential. At the same time, Nec-1 inhibited the increased inflammatory cytokines and the decreased mucin expression caused by PM exposure in HCE cells. Nec-1 also reduced corneal inflammation and mucin underproduction in mouse ocular surface after PM exposure. Our study demonstrated that necroptosis is involved in the pathogenesis of PM exposure-related ocular surface injury, including inflammation and insufficient mucin production in the cornea, which can be rescued by inhibitor Nec-1. This suggests Nec-1 could be a novel therapeutic target for ocular surface disorders, especially dry eye disease, which is caused by the exacerbation of airborne PM pollution.
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