Cultured chicken embryo lens cells resemble differentiating fiber cells in vivo and contain two kinetic pools of connexin56

Exp Eye Res. 1999 Apr;68(4):475-84. doi: 10.1006/exer.1998.0635.


The lens is an avascular organ in which gap junctions play a pivotal role for cell physiology and transparency. Here we evaluate a lens culture system as a model for studies of lens gap junction dynamics. In culture, chicken embryo lens cells initially form a monolayer of epithelial cells. Subsequently, the epithelial cells differentiate into lentoids, birefringent multicellular structures composed of fiber-like cells. We examined the cultures for the expression of cellular markers and lens fiber specific proteins using immunofluorescence and immunoblot analysis. We also determined the half-life of connexin56 (Cx56), a fiber-specific gap junction protein. All lens cells in culture expressed actin, endoplasmic reticulum proteins and N-cadherin. Only lentoid cells expressed the lens fiber connexins, Cx45.6 and Cx56. Cx56 localized at appositional membranes and did not co-localize with endoplasmic reticulum proteins or N-cadherin. Two pools of Cx56 were detected in these cultures, one with a half-life of a few hours and the other with a half-life of days. The two pools contained phosphorylated forms of Cx56 of different apparent molecular weights. These results suggest that lens cells in culture can be used as a model for the study of lens biology. They also suggest that phosphorylation of Cx56 might be regulating the stability of the protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chick Embryo
  • Connexins / analysis
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Eye Proteins / analysis
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Half-Life
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lens, Crystalline / chemistry
  • Lens, Crystalline / cytology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Weight


  • Biomarkers
  • Connexins
  • Eye Proteins
  • connexin 56