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Int J Dev Biol. 1989 Dec;33(4):487-90.

Culture on basement membrane does not reverse the phenotype of lens derived mesenchyme-like cells.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.


Definitive epithelia suspended within type I collagen gel give rise to individual, freely migrating cells that express the mesenchymal phenotype. They become elongate in shape, invade collagenous matrices and develop abundant RER. We investigated whether mesenchyme-like cells that derive from lens epithelia retain the mesenchymal phenotype or revert to epithelial phenotype when cultured on basement membrane (BM). Mesenchyme-like cells placed on top of BM gel or lens capsule BM retain the elongate, bipolar morphology of mesenchymal cells. They migrate individually along and into the BM matrix. Mesenchyme-like cells on or in BM ultrastructurally resemble true mesenchymal cells. They extend pseudopodia and filopodia, exhibit a circumferential actin cortex, and contain well developed RER. Mesenchymal products, such as type I collagen, continue to be expressed. We conclude that the phenotype of mesenchyme-like cells derived from definitive epithelia is stable even in or on matrix known to promote the epithelial genetic program. Their behavior, thus, is similar to that of true (secondary) mesenchymal cells in the embryo.

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