The developing corneal endothelium: correlation of morphology, hydration and Na/K ATPase pump site density

Curr Eye Res. 1991 Feb;10(2):145-56. doi: 10.3109/02713689109001742.


The physiology and anatomy of the cornea of the New Zealand white rabbit were studied from birth to young adulthood (3 months). The main objective of the study was to follow the ontogeny of the corneal endothelium and correlate its maturation with the establishment of stromal transparency. With maturity, central corneal thickness increases as do corneal diameter and surface area. Endothelial morphology undergoes marked changes including an increase in cell hexagonality and cell surface area, along with a decrease in cell density and coefficient of variation of cell area. Corneal hydration decreases from a high value at birth to the adult level by 20 days after birth, the time of the onset of stromal transparency. By transmission electron microscopy, corneas of newborn rabbits exhibit an endothelium of irregular cell height with some overlap at the bases of adjacent cells. Apical junctions are incomplete in the neonates. With time the endothelium thins and cells becomes more regular in height, overlap of adjacent cells diminishes, and apical junctions develop. Descemet's membrane is thin in newborns and thickens and becomes more homogenous in appearance with maturation. The abundance of Na/K ATPase pump sites per endothelial cell, as determined by 3H-ouabain binding, increases progressively with age even after the establishment of corneal transparency at 20 days. Scatchard and LIGAND analyses of 3H-ouabain binding data indicate that there is a progressive increase in Bmax with no change in the KD from 7 days to 3 months.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cornea / ultrastructure
  • Descemet Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Endothelium, Corneal / enzymology
  • Endothelium, Corneal / physiology*
  • Endothelium, Corneal / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Male
  • Ouabain / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism*


  • Ouabain
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase