Purpose To identify genetic mutations and study the corneal epithelium in Japanese patients with Meesmann corneal dystrophy. Design Laboratory investigation and prospective observational case series. Methods Slit-lamp biomicroscopy with fluorescein vital staining and in vivo confocal microscopy were performed. Mutation screening of the KRT3 and KRT12 genes was performed via polymerase chain reaction and direct sequencing for 5 patients in 2 families. Results Slit-lamp biomicroscopy revealed multiple corneal intraepithelial microcysts in all patients. A clear zone was seen in the younger generation, whereas mild subepithelial opacity was seen in the older generation. In the in vivo confocal microscopy, numerous corneal intraepithelial microcysts and hyperreflective materials, which were believed to be degenerative cells, were detected closer to the basal layer of the corneal epithelium in older patients. The superficial layer contained more enlarged microcysts, and the hyperreflective materials showed atrophic changes, as compared to the basal layer. The demarcation line between the microcysts and normal epithelial cells was clearly visualized by in vivo confocal microscopy and corresponded to the demarcation line of the clear zone observed by the slit-lamp examination. Two heterozygous mutations (Q130P, L140Q) in the KRT12 gene, one of which (L140Q) was novel, were identified only in the affected patients of the families. Conclusions We identified a novel missense mutation of the KRT12 gene in Meesmann corneal dystrophy. The in vivo confocal microscopy examinations revealed previously unreported depth-dependent ultrastructural changes in the living cornea of Meesmann corneal dystrophy patients.
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