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Development. 1988 May;103(1):27-36.

Secretion of collagen types I and II by epithelial and endothelial cells in the developing chick cornea demonstrated by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway 08854.


Cells involved in the synthesis of collagen types I and II in the cornea of developing chick embryos have been studied by using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Corneas processed for in situ hybridization with the type I and II collagen probes demonstrated specific mRNAs in the epithelium of embryos at stage 18 with an increase at stages between 26 and 31, and then gradual decrease to the background level in the next several days. In the endothelium, a small amount of specific mRNA was recognized through these stages. In the stroma, only sections hybridized with the type I probe demonstrated mRNA in fibroblasts. Immunostaining demonstrated specific collagen types in the stroma at sites which were closely associated with cells containing specific mRNAs. Both collagens type I and II were present beneath the epithelium as narrow bands at stage 18; as the thicker primary stroma at stages 20 and 26; and as subepithelial, subendothelial and stromal staining at stage 31. Thereafter, type I collagen was increased in the stroma but it was also noted in the subepithelial and, to a lesser degree, subendothelial regions, whereas type II collagen was gradually confined to the subendothelial matrix. Electron microscopic examination of sections from 5-day-old (stage-27) embryo corneas using antibodies against the carboxyl propeptides of type I and II procollagens revealed the presence of these procollagens within the cisternae of the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi vesicles in both epithelial and endothelial cells. In the epithelial cells both the periderm and basal cells contained these procollagens within the cytoplasmic organelles. These results indicate that not only the epithelial cells, but also the endothelial cells secrete collagen types I and II during the formation of the primary corneal stroma and for several days after invasion of fibroblasts.

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