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BMC Dev Biol. 2005 Jun 28;5:12.

Morphogenesis of the anterior segment in the zebrafish eye.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.



The ocular anterior segment is critical for focusing incoming light onto the neural retina and for regulating intraocular pressure. It is comprised of the cornea, lens, iris, ciliary body, and highly specialized tissue at the iridocorneal angle. During development, cells from diverse embryonic lineages interact to form the anterior segment. Abnormal migration, proliferation, differentiation, or survival of these cells contribute to diseases of the anterior segment such as corneal dystrophy, lens cataract, and glaucoma. Zebrafish represent a powerful model organism for investigating the genetics and cell biology of development and disease. To lay the foundation for genetic studies of anterior segment development, we have described the morphogenesis of this structure in zebrafish.


As in other vertebrates, the zebrafish anterior segment derives from diverse origins including surface ectoderm, periocular mesenchyme, and neuroepithelium. Similarly, the relative timing of tissue differentiation in the anterior segment is also conserved with other vertebrates. However, several morphogenic features of the zebrafish anterior segment differ with those of higher vertebrates. These include lens delamination as opposed to invagination, lack of iris muscles and ciliary folds, and altered organization in the iridocorneal angle. In addition, substantial dorsal-ventral differences exist within the zebrafish anterior segment.


Cumulatively, our anatomical findings provide a reference point to utilize zebrafish for genetic studies into the mechanisms of development and maintenance of the anterior segment.

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