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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2010 Dec;42(12):1945-63. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2010.09.012. Epub 2010 Sep 29.

The lens epithelium in ocular health and disease.

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Ocular Development Laboratory, Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic 3010, Australia.


The lens arises from invagination of head ectoderm during embryonic development and in the adult has a relatively simple structure, comprising just two cell types (epithelial and fibre cells). Its isolation from nerves and blood vessels in the adult make it a tractable model to investigate mechanisms that regulate epithelial cells. A major focus in lens research in the past 50 years has been on the differentiation of fibre cells from epithelial cells. Hence, there has been much interest in the role of signalling systems regulating fibre cell differentiation during development. In contrast, the signalling systems that control the formation and maintenance of the lens epithelium have, until recently, been largely ignored or incidental to studies on differentiation or cataract. One notable example has been the identification of signals that underlie epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) that characterizes anterior subcapsular cataract (ASC) and posterior capsule opacification (PCO). Recent data indicate that normal epithelial phenotype is regulated by several key signalling systems, including receptor tyrosine kinase receptors acting via the MAPK and Akt pathways, Wnt, Notch as well as extracellular matrix cues and possibly the Sal-Warts-Hippo pathway. Here we have shifted emphasis onto molecular mechanisms that regulate the establishment, maintenance and function of the lens epithelium.

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