Minireview: apoptosis as seen through a lens

Apoptosis. 2000 Jun;5(3):203-9. doi: 10.1023/a:1009653326511.


The lens represents an ideal model system for studying many of the cellular and molecular events of differentiation. It is composed of two ectodermally-derived cell types: the lens epithelial cells and the lens fibre cells, which are derived from the lens epithelial cells by differentiation. Programmed removal of nuclei and other organelles from the lens fibre cells ensures that an optically clear structure is created, while the morphology of the degenerating nuclei is similar to that observed during apoptosis and is accompanied by DNA fragmentation. These observations suggest the existence of biochemical parallels between the process of lens fibre cell organelle loss and classical apoptosis. For example, proteins encoded by the bcl-2 and caspase gene families are expressed in developing lenses and nuclear degeneration in lens fibre cells can be inhibited in vivo by overexpression of bcl-2 and in vitro by incubation of differentiating lens epithelial cell cultures with caspase inhibitors. Thus, the developing lens may represent a particularly useful model system for researchers interested in apoptosis. In this review, the recent literature pertaining to lens fibre cell organelle loss and its relationship to apoptosis is reviewed and possible future research directions are suggested.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Lens, Crystalline / cytology*
  • Lens, Crystalline / embryology
  • Lens, Crystalline / physiology*
  • Lens, Crystalline / ultrastructure
  • Organelles / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Caspases