The barrier epithelia of the cornea and retina control drug and nutrient access to various compartments of the human eye. While ocular transporters are likely to play a critical role in homeostasis and drug delivery, little is known about their expression, localization and function. In this study, the mRNA expression levels of 445 transporters, metabolic enzymes, transcription factors and nuclear receptors were profiled in five regions of the human eye: cornea, iris, ciliary body, choroid and retina. Through RNA expression profiling and immunohistochemistry, several transporters were identified as putative targets for drug transport in ocular tissues. Our analysis identified SLC22A7 (OAT2), a carrier for the anti-viral drug, acyclovir, in the corneal epithelium, in addition to ABCG2 (BCRP), an important xenobiotic efflux pump, in retinal nerve fibers and the retinal pigment epithelium. Collectively, our results provide an understanding of the transporters that serve to maintain ocular homeostasis and which may be potential targets for drug delivery to deep compartments of the eye.
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