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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1991 Mar;32(3):594-602.

Regional heterogeneity in human corneal and limbal epithelia: an immunohistochemical evaluation.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania.


The authors studied the distribution of specific keratins within the superior, inferior, medial, and lateral regions of human limbus and cornea to determine whether the limbal epithelium exhibits regional heterogeneity in its microstructure. A corneal epithelial basic keratin (K3), recognized by monoclonal antibody AE5, was immunohistochemically undetectable in the basal layers of the limbus in these four regions, but was seen in all layers in the central cornea. The pattern of immunostaining with another monoclonal antibody, AE1, which recognizes several acidic keratins, was complementary to AE5 staining in that AE1 recognized a similar heterogeneity in the limbal epithelial cells. AE1 immunoreacted with the basal cells of the limbus, but not those of the central corneal epithelium. Limbal characteristics, as defined by AE1-positive and AE5-negative staining, extended deeply into peripheral cornea in the superior and inferior regions, but to a lesser extent in the lateral and medial regions. The broader regions of epithelium with limbal characteristics in the superior and inferior regions raises the possibility that these regions play an important role in corneal epithelial maintenance and wound healing.

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