Purpose: This study was performed to investigate the effects of interleukin (IL)-4 on adipogenesis and the underlying molecular mechanisms in human meibomian gland epithelial cells (HMGECs). Methods: HMGECs and human white preadipocytes (HWPs) were cultured and differentiated with or without IL-4. Oil-red O staining, Adipored assay, and LipidTox immunostaining were performed to examine the extent of lipid droplet formation. The expression of signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (STAT6), phospho-STAT6, peroxisome proliferator activator receptor (PPAR)γ, and sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP)-1 was measured through immunoblotting. Cells were treated with STAT6 inhibitor, which prevents the phosphorylation of STAT6 by IL-4, to determine whether the effects of IL-4 on lipogenesis were altered. Results: Treatment with IL-4 significantly facilitated lipid production in differentiated HMGECs. Phosphorylation of STAT6 and expression of key adipogenesis-related molecules PPARγ and SREBP-1 were increased after IL-4 treatment. Inhibition of STAT6 phosphorylation suppressed IL-4-mediated lipid synthesis in HMGECs. In contrast, the lipid synthetic effects of IL-4 were not observed in differentiated HWPs. Conclusions: IL-4 appears to promote lipid synthesis in meibomian gland epithelial cells through the STAT6/PPARγ signaling pathway. This mechanism can serve as a potential therapeutic target for meibomian gland dysfunction.
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