Lens epithelial cell death after cataract surgery

J Cataract Refract Surg. 2002 Aug;28(8):1452-6. doi: 10.1016/s0886-3350(02)01223-3.


Purpose: To determine whether lens epithelial cells (LECs) undergo apoptosis during healing after cataract surgery to further characterize the healing process of the postoperative lens capsule.

Setting: Department of Ophthalmology, Wakayama Medical University, Wakayama, Japan.

Methods: Apoptotic cells were detected in human postoperative lens capsules using the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase deoxy-UTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) method. The effect of exogenous transforming growth factor-beta2 (TGF-beta2) on mouse LEC apoptosis was also examined in an organ-culture system.

Results: Three of 17 postoperative specimens contained TUNEL-positive cells. In 2 lens capsules obtained earlier than 10 days, many TUNEL-positive cells, presumably apoptotic LECs, were observed beneath the residual anterior capsule. In cell multilayers in capsule opacification extracted later than 10 days, a few TUNEL-positive cells were seen in 1 specimen; most cells remained negative. In mouse lenses organ-cultured with 1.0 ng/mL TGF-beta2 for 48 hours, TUNEL-positive cells were detected beneath the lens capsule.

Conclusions: Lens epithelial cells undergo apoptosis during healing after cataract surgery, especially in the early phase. Transforming growth factor-beta2 may be a factor inducing apoptosis in in vivo LECs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cataract Extraction
  • Cell Death
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Lens Capsule, Crystalline / pathology
  • Lens Capsule, Crystalline / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Postoperative Period
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / pharmacology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta2
  • Wound Healing / physiology


  • TGFB2 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta2