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Dev Biol. 2005 Apr 1;280(1):1-14.

Growth factor regulation of lens development.

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Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia.


Lens arises from ectoderm situated next to the optic vesicles. By thickening and invaginating, the ectoderm forms the lens vesicle. Growth factors are key regulators of cell fate and behavior. Current evidence indicates that FGFs and BMPs are required to induce lens differentiation from ectoderm. In the lens vesicle, posterior cells elongate to form the primary fibers whereas anterior cells differentiate into epithelial cells. The divergent fates of these embryonic cells give the lens its distinctive polarity. There is now compelling evidence that, at least in mammals, FGF is required to initiate fiber differentiation and that progression of this complex process depends on the synchronized and integrated action of a number of distinct growth factor-induced signaling pathways. It is also proposed that an antero-posterior gradient of FGF stimulation in the mammalian eye ensures that the lens attains and maintains its polarity and growth patterns. Less is known about differentiation of the lens epithelium; however, recent studies point to a role for Wnt signaling. Multiple Wnts and their receptors are expressed in the lens epithelium, and mice with impaired Wnt signaling have a deficient epithelium. Recent studies also indicate that other families of molecules, that can modulate growth factor signaling, have a role in regulating the ordered growth and differentiation of the lens.

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