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Int Rev Cytol. 1999;187:111-59.

The pecten oculi of the chicken: a model system for vascular differentiation and barrier maturation.

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  • 1Institute of Pathology, University of Tübingen, Germany.


The pecten oculi is a convolute of blood vessels in the vitreous body of the avian eye. This structure is well known for more than a century, but its functions are still a matter of controversies. One of these functions must be the formation of a blood-retina barrier because there is no diffusion barrier for blood-borne compounds available between the pecten and the retina. Surprisingly, the blood-retina barrier characteristics of this organ have not been studied so far, although the pecten oculi may constitute a fascinating model of vascular differentiation and barrier maturation: Pectinate endothelial cells grow by angiogenesis from the ophthalmotemporal artery into the pecten primordium and consecutively gain barrier properties. The pectinate pigmented cells arise during development from retinal pigment epithelial cells and subsequently lose barrier properties. These inverse transdifferentiation processes may be triggered by the peculiar microenvironment in the vitreous body. In addition, the question is discussed whether the avascularity of the avian retina may be due to the specific metabolic activity of the pecten.

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