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J Cell Sci. 1993 Oct;106 ( Pt 2):685-91.

Keratocyte networks visualised in the living cornea using vital dyes.

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Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


Fluorescent viability probes have been used to visualise and investigate the viability, morphology and organisation of the keratocyte within the stroma of the intact living cornea. The live cell probe, calcien-AM, in combination with a dead cell probe, ethidium homodimer (Live/Dead Assay, Molecular Probes, U.S.A.) proved superior to earlier generation vital dyes such as fluorescein diacetate or 5,6-carboxyfluorescein diacetate, initially used in combination with ethidium bromide. The ubiquitous distribution of esterase enzymes that cleave calcien-AM within the keratocyte cytoplasm produced a high concentration of fluorescently active calcein throughout the cell, including fine cell processes. Epi-illuminated fluorescence microscopy on transparent corneal dissections subsequently revealed details of keratocyte microanatomy and three-dimensional network organisation in situ. Three morphologically discrete subpopulations of keratocytes were identified: two formed relatively small bands of cells, immediately subjacent to either Bowman's or Descemet's membranes, the third subpopulation constituting the majority of keratocytes typically located within the corneal stroma. The results indicate that calcein-AM is able to penetrate intact living cornea revealing cell viability, and it also has the capacity to 'trace' cellular elements and reveal fine structure within a dense connective tissue matrix.

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