The role of fibroblast growth factor in eye lens development

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1991;638:256-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1991.tb49036.x.


In this review we have presented evidence that FGF plays an important role in inducing events in lens morphogenesis and growth. Our studies show that FGF stimulates lens epithelial cells in explants to proliferate, migrate, and differentiate into fibers at low, medium, and high concentrations, respectively. This has some important implications for understanding the behavior of lens cells in the eye. The fact that aFGF is detected in the equatorial region of the lens where cells are actively proliferating, possibly migrating, and differentiating into fibers suggests that these events may be under autocrine control in vivo, at least to some extent. Because FGF is also present in the ciliary and iridial region of retina and in the vitreous, paracrine control may also be involved. Cell proliferation, fiber differentiation, and (possibly) cell migration occur in characteristic spatial patterns that are related to distinct compartments of the lens. We suggest that cells in the germinative zone receive only a low level of FGF stimulation arising from the cells themselves and possibly also from the ciliary and iridial regions of the retina but, whatever the source, this is only sufficient to stimulate proliferation. Lens epithelial cells that migrate or are displaced into the transitional zone below the lens equator receive some FGF from these sources but in addition receive a strong stimulus from the high level of FGF in the vitreous; thus, fiber differentiation is induced. Cells at the junction between these two zones may receive an intermediate level of FGF stimulation, sufficient to induce cell migration. In essence, we are proposing that, in the eye, FGF acts as a lens morphogen in the sense that different levels of FGF stimulation elicit different lens cell responses. Hence its characteristic distribution in the eye establishes lens polarity and growth patterns. Since FGF has an inductive effect on lens cells from mature age animals, we also propose that this specific distribution of FGF in the eye is also important for maintenance of a normal lens throughout life. Finally the synergistic effects of insulin/IGF on the FGF-induced responses highlight the importance of considering the distribution of members of the insulin/IGF family of molecules in vivo. Mechanisms that control levels of both the FGF and insulin/IGF families of factors in the eye are probably of crucial importance in the formation and maintenance of a normal lens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Crystallins / metabolism
  • Embryonic Induction
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Eye / metabolism
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 1 / physiology*
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / physiology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Insulin / pharmacology
  • Lens, Crystalline / embryology*
  • Lens, Crystalline / growth & development
  • Rats
  • Somatomedins / pharmacology


  • Crystallins
  • Insulin
  • Somatomedins
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 1