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Bacterial infections of the eye highlight a dilemma that is central to all immune-privileged sites. On the one hand, immune privilege limits inflammation to prevent bystander destruction of normal tissue and loss of vision. On the other hand, bacterial infections require a robust inflammatory response for rapid clearance of the pathogen. We demonstrate that the retina handles this dilemma, in part, by activation of a protective heat shock protein. During Staphylococcus aureus-induced endophthalmitis, the small heat shock protein αB-crystallin is upregulated in the retina and prevents apoptosis during immune clearance of the bacteria. In the absence of αB-crystallin, mice display increased retinal apoptosis and retinal damage. We found that S. aureus produces a protease capable of cleaving αB-crystallin to a form that coincides with increased retinal apoptosis and tissue destruction. We conclude that αB-crystallin is important in protecting sensitive retinal tissue during destructive inflammation that occurs during bacterial endophthalmitis.

Original Citation

Whiston E.A., Sugi N., Kamradt M.C., Sack C., Heimer S.R., Engelbert M., ...Gregory M.S. (2008). Alpha B-crystallin protects retinal tissue during Staphylococcus aureus-induced endophthalmitis. Infection and Immunity, 76(4), 1781-1790.

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