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Purpose. To demonstrate the potential value of tetracyclines in the treatment of corneal ulceration after moderate to severe ocular chemical injuries.

Methods. Review of published materials describing landmarks in the development of tetracyclines as matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors in ophthalmology and related disciplines.

Results. Tetracyclines can protect the cornea against proteolytic degradation after moderate to severe ocular chemical injury. They inhibit matrix metalloproteinases by mechanisms independent of their antimicrobial properties, primarily through restriction of the gene expression of neutrophil collagenase and epithelial gelatinase, suppression of [alpha]1-antitrypsin degradation, and scavenging of reactive oxygen species.

Conclusion. Oral tetracyclines can be used along with topical tetracycline preparations and other therapeutic agents to inhibit collagenolytic degradation of the cornea after moderate to severe ocular chemical injuries.

(C) 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.