An important element of the recently proposed limbal stem cell model is that corneal epithelial cells migrate centripetally. The driving force for this migration is unknown, although it has been suggested that limbal epithelium, proliferates at a higher rate than central corneal epithelium, thus creating a population pressure toward the central cornea. This hypothesis was tested by measuring the relative proliferative rates of limbal and central corneal epithelia using 3H-thymidine autoradiographic techniques. The results indicate that, in both the New Zealand white rabbit and SENCAR mouse, the labeling index (LI) of limbal epithelium is actually lower than that of central corneal epithelium. This difference in LI persists throughout the circadian rhythm cycle. These results suggest that population pressure per se cannot be responsible for the centripetal migration of corneal epithelium and raise the possibility that preferential desquamation of central corneal epithelium may "draw" peripheral cells toward the central cornea. In both epithelia, the LI peak precedes the mitotic index (MI) peak during circadian cycle by 4-6 hr. These data therefore are in close agreement with earlier results on several nonocular stratified epithelia but contradict an earlier suggestion that the LI and MI peaks of corneal epithelium coincide. Finally, although most of the 3H-thymidine incorporating cells in central cornea may appear to be suprabasally located, they are only partially displaced into the suprabasal compartment. In most cases, such cells are still connected with the basement membrane through a thin stalk of cytoplasm. Since corneal epithelium rests on an exceptionally flat and rigid substratum, an increase in cellular volume in DNA-synthesizing cells may not be tolerated well in an already crowded basal layer. This may explain why an unusually large proportion of DNA-synthesizing cells are expelled preferentially into either a "second tier basal layer" or into the suprabasal compartment.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||12|
|Journal||Investigative ophthalmology & visual science|
|State||Published - May 1991|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience