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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1994 Mar;35(3):870-7.

Molecular polymorphism of lumican during corneal development.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Eye and Ear Institute of Pittsburgh, PA 15213.



To evaluate the expression of lumican and decorin, the major proteoglycans of the adult corneal stroma, during the acquisition of corneal transparency in developing chick embryos.


mRNA levels of decorin and lumican were measured in total RNA extracted from corneas of days 9 to 18 of development by Northern blot analysis using a 32P-labeled cDNA clone to each proteoglycan. The synthesis lumican and decorin precursor proteins were determined by biosynthetically radiolabeling corneas from day 7 to 18 chick embryos with 35S-methionine, and then using antibodies specific for lumican and decorin core proteins to precipitate the radiolabeled precursor proteins. The accumulation of lumican and decorin was determined by fractionating extracts of day 7 to 18 embryonic corneas by DEAE chromatography into glycoprotein and proteoglycan fractions, and then analyzing each fraction by Western blot using antibodies to lumican and decorin.


Lumican and decorin mRNA increased from day 9 to day 18, with respect to beta-actin. The rate of decorin precursor protein synthesis remained relatively low and constant throughout development, but lumican precursor protein synthesis increased dramatically between days 7 and 9 of embryonic development, to a value 80-fold higher than that of decorin, and then decreased exponentially through day 18. Lumican with polylactosamine (nonsulfated keratan sulfate) side chains was detected in extracts of corneas as early as day 7 of embryonic development, and continued to accumulate within the cornea through day 18. Decorin and lumican with sulfated glycosaminoglycan side chains (ie, proteoglycans), however, were not detected in corneal extracts until day 15, when transparency starts to increase, and then accumulated considerably within the cornea by day 18.


The results of these studies suggest that decorin and lumican expression are independently regulated during the period of acquisition of corneal transparency. The switch in production of the polylactosamine form of lumican to the proteoglycan form of lumican at the onset of increasing corneal transparency suggests that the sulfation of lumican may be important for the development of corneal transparency.

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