Corneal transparency depends on the architecture of the stromal extracellular matrix, including fibril diameter, packing, and lamellar organization. The roles of collagen types XII and XIV in regulation of corneal fibrillogenesis and development were examined. The temporal and spatial expression patterns were analyzed using semi-quantitative RT-PCR, in situ hybridization, Western analysis, and immunohistochemistry. Expression of types XII and XIV collagens in cornea development demonstrated that type XII collagen mRNA levels are constant throughout development (10D-adult) while type XIV mRNA is highest in early embryonic stages (10D-14D), decreasing significantly by hatching. The spatial expression patterns of types XII and XIV collagens demonstrated a homogeneous signal in the stroma for type XIV collagen, while type XII collagen shows segregation to the sub-epithelial and sub-endothelial stroma during embryonic stages. The type XII collagen in the anterior stroma was an epithelial product during development while fibroblasts contributed in the adult. Type XIV collagen expression was highest early in development and was absent by hatching. Both types XII and type XIV collagen have different isoforms generated by alternative splicing that may alter specific interactions important in fibrillogenesis, fibril-fibril interactions, and higher order matrix assembly. Analysis of these splice variants demonstrated that the long XII mRNA levels were constant throughout development, while the short XII NC3 mRNA levels peaked early (12D) followed by a decrease. Both type XIV collagen NC1 splice variants are highest during early stages (12D-14D) decreasing by 17D of development. These data suggest type XII collagen may have a role in development of stromal architecture and maintenance of fibril organization, while type XIV collagen may have a role in regulation of fibrillogenesis.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.