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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2000 Jan;41(1):55-63.

Developmentally regulated appearance of spliced variants of type XII collagen in the cornea.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, USA.



To determine whether temporal and spatial changes in the distribution of the long and short alternatively spliced variants of type XII collagen are associated with any specific morphogenetic events in pre- and postnatal development of the cornea and surrounding tissues.


The distribution of alternatively spliced variants of type XII collagen in fetal and newborn rabbit tissues was analyzed immunohistochemically using monoclonal antibodies that recognize either only the long form or both the short and the long forms of type XII collagen.


During early fetal development of the cornea in rabbit (days 14 -17), the short form of type XII collagen was detected in the corneal stroma, the sclera, and the stroma in the rudimentary eyelid folds, whereas the long form was present only in the sclera. The long form was first evident in the cornea at day 24 but only in the posterior stroma. At later stages of prenatal development, the distribution of the long variant gradually extended toward the anterior stroma and in the newborn rabbit, the long variant was distributed throughout the entire stroma. However, in the eyelid, although the short form was present along the entire subepidermal regions both during fetal and neonatal development, the long form was transiently expressed between days 21 and 24 and was restricted to the subepidermal regions at the junction of the opposing eyelids. The long form of type XII collagen was first detectable in the basal epithelial cells and in its basement membrane (BM) at day 12 after birth, just before the opening of the eyelids. It continued to be present in the corneal BM zone in the adult rabbit but was not present in the limbal or conjunctival BM zone.


The expression and distribution of the alternatively spliced forms of type XII collagen are developmentally and differentially regulated in the cornea, the sclera, and the eyelid. Although the short form is expressed in the stromal matrices of the cornea and surrounding tissues from early stages of corneal development, the appearance and distribution of the long variant form of type XII collagen coincide with the pattern of stromal condensation. Its first appearance in the corneal epithelial BM precedes the eyelid opening by 1 to 2 days, possibly suggesting that it may be involved in the tighter anchoring of the corneal epithelium to the underlying tissue or in promoting stromal condensation to assist in the separation of the corneal epithelium from the juxtaposed palpebral conjunctival epithelium of the eyelid.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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