Spatiotemporal determination of metabolite activities in the corneal epithelium on a chip

Rodi Abdalkader, Romanas Chaleckis, Craig E. Wheelock, Ken ichiro Kamei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The corneal epithelial barrier maintains the metabolic activities of the ocular surface by regulating membrane transporters and metabolic enzymes responsible for the homeostasis of the eye as well as the pharmacokinetic behavior of drugs. Despite its importance, no established biomimetic in vitro methods are available to perform the spatiotemporal investigation of metabolism and determine the transportation of endogenous and exogenous molecules across the corneal epithelium barrier. This study introduces multiple corneal epitheliums on a chip namely, Corneal Epithelium on a Chip (CEpOC), which enables the spatiotemporal collection as well as analysis of micro-scaled extracellular metabolites from both the apical and basolateral sides of the barriers. Longitudinal samples collected during 48 h period were analyzed using untargeted liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry metabolomics method, and 104 metabolites were annotated. We observed the spatiotemporal secretion of biologically relevant metabolites (i.e., antioxidant, glutathione and uric acid) as well as the depletion of essential nutrients such as amino acids and vitamins mimicking the in vivo molecules trafficking across the human corneal epithelium. Through the shifts of extracellular metabolites and quantitative analysis of mRNA associated with transporters, we were able to investigate the secretion and transportation activities across the polarized barrier in a correlation with the expression of corneal transporters. Thus, CEpOC can provide a non-invasive, simple, yet effectively informative method to determine pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics as well as to discover novel biomarkers for drug toxicological and safety tests as advanced experimental model of the human corneal epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108646
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Corneal epithelium on a chip
  • Metabolism
  • Transporters
  • Untargeted metabolomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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