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Cell Tissue Res. 1983;229(1):37-59.

Embryonic development of the smooth and striated musculatures of the chicken iris.


Both smooth muscle and striated muscle are present in the iris of the chick embryo. The two types of musculature form mixed clusters which include undifferentiated cells and many nerve fibres, but they are structurally quite distinct and have different origins. The smooth musculature originates around the 10th day from a laminar invagination (iridial lamella) of the posterior epithelium, and is therefore an ectodermal derivative. The striated musculature appears slightly later than the smooth musculature and originates from undifferentiated cells which are regarded as mesenchymal. After the 15th day in ovo the smooth musculature stops growing; its cells become confined to an area very near the pupillary margin and many develop pigment granules in the sarcoplasm. Many smooth muscle cells seem to undergo regressive changes; however, cells with the typical appearance of visceral muscle cells are still present in the iris of 3-month-old chickens. High density of innervation and vascularization, wide range of striated muscle fibre diameters, presence of lipid vacuoles and of large clusters of mitochondria in the striated fibres, occurrence of peripheral couplings of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, and presence of numerous fibroblast processes in the interstices between fibres, characterize the sphincter pupillae of the mature iris.

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