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    ABSTRACT: To determine if topical instillation of dihydroartemisinin (DHA) inhibits corneal neovascularization (NV) in rats and to investigate the role of the extracellular regulated kinases (ERK) 1/2 and p38 pathways in this process. Suture-induced corneal NV was produced in rats and the eyes were topically treated with different concentrations of DHA (20mg/L, 10mg/L or 5mg/L) or normal saline 4 times a day for 7 days. The corneal NV was quantified as the proportion of NV area to the whole cornea. Western blot was used to determine the expressions of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and the phosphorylation status of VEGF receptor-2, ERK1/2 and p38 in the corneas. Immunofluorescent staining was used to determine the expressions of phospho-ERK1/2 and phospho-p38 in the corneal tissues from the eyes treated with 20 mg/L DHA (DHA group) or normal saline (control group). The proportion of corneal NV area in the eyes treated with normal saline or DHA at dosages of 20mg/L, 10mg/L or 5mg/L was (23.74±3.00)%, (15.73±2.88)%, (19.53±2.42)%, and (23.38±2.79)%, respectively. In the eyes treated with 20mg/L or 10mg/L DHA, the corneal NV area was significantly reduced when compared to that in eyes with normal saline (P<0.05). Western blot analyses revealed that 20mg/L DHA significantly inhibited the expressions of VEGF and phospho-VEGFR-2. Both 20mg/L and 10mg/L DHA inhibited the expressions of phospho-ERK1/2 and phospho-p38. Immunofluorescent staining further demonstrated that 20mg/L DHA lowered the expression levels of phospho-ERK1/2 and phospho-p38 in the corneas with suture-induced NV. Suture-induced NV in rat corneas was significantly inhibited by topical treatment with 20mg/L and 10mg/L DHA. The results suggest that the effects could be partially dependent on the DHA-mediated inhibitions of the ERK1/2 and p38 pathways.
    International journal of ophthalmology. 01/2011; 4(2):150-5.