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Tissue Cell. 1998 Dec;30(6):634-43.

Changes in cell surface primary cilia and microvilli concurrent with measurements of fluid flow across the rabbit corneal endothelium ex vivo.

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Department of Vision Sciences, Glasgow-Caledonian University, UK.


Primary cilia and microvilli have been reported on the mammalian rabbit corneal endothelium but their relationship to cell function is undefined. Six corneas from healthy 2 kg female albino rabbits were glutaraldehyde-fixed post mortem (15:00 h) or twelve corneal stroma-endothelial preparations incubated at 37 degrees C under an applied hydrostatic pressure of 20 cm H2O for 4 h prior to fixation. The corneal endothelium was assessed by quantitative scanning electron microscopy. Cells fixed immediately post mortem were decorated with small stubby microvilli (average 21 +/- 13/100 micron 2), and only 25% of the cells were decorated with primary cilia having an average length of 2.44 +/- 1.56 microns. Following 4 h ex vivo incubation with a phosphate-buffered Ringer solution, conspicuous microvilli developed to an average density of 40 +/- 19/100 micron 2 and primary cilia were found on 12% of the cells, having on average length of 2.27 +/- 1.38 microns. Following 4 h incubation in a bicarbonate-buffered Ringer solution, small stubby microvilli developed to a density of 49 +/- 18/100 micron 2, and 40% of the cells showed primary cilia with an average length of 4.31 +/- 1.93 microns; the net trans-endothelial fluid flow in the latter set was 60% greater. These studies indicate that the primary cilia on corneal endothelial cells might be responsive to fluid flow, but that mild mechanical and/or chemical stress could also be the cause of the change since the elaboration of primary cilia can be accompanied by microvilli as well.

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