Cell fate and differentiation of the developing ocular lens

Teri M.S. Greiling, Masamoto Aose, John I. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose. Even though zebrafish development does not include the formation of a lens vesicle, the authors' hypothesis is that the processes of cell differentiation are similar in zebrafish and mammals and determine cell fates in the lens. Methods. Two-photon live embryo imaging was used to follow individual fluorescently labeled cells in real-time from the placode stage at 16 hours postfertilization (hpf) until obvious morphologic differentiation into epithelium or fiber cells had occurred at approximately 28 hpf. Immunohistochemistry was used to label proliferating, differentiating, and apoptotic cells. Results. Similar to the mammal, cells in the teleost peripheral lens placode migrated to the anterior lens mass and differentiated into an anterior epithelium. Cells in the central lens placode migrated to the posterior lens mass and differentiated into primary fiber cells. Anterior and posterior polarization in the zebrafish lens mass was similar to mammalian lens vesicle polarization. Primary fiber cell differentiation was apparent at approximately 21 hpf, before separation of the lens from the surface ectoderm, as evidenced by cell elongation, exit from the cell cycle, and expression of Zl-1, a marker for fiber differentiation. TUNEL labeling demonstrated that apoptosis was not a primary mechanism for lens separation from the surface ectoderm. Conclusions. Despite the absence of a lens vesicle in the zebrafish embryo, lens organogenesis appears to be well conserved among vertebrates. Results using three-dimensional live embryo imaging of zebrafish development showed minimal differences and strong similarities in the fate of cells in the zebrafish and mammalian lens placode.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1540-1546
Number of pages7
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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