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. 2018 Feb;43(2):175-185.
doi: 10.1080/02713683.2017.1385087. Epub 2017 Nov 7.

Structural, Ultrastructural, and Morphometric Study of the Zebrafish Ocular Surface: A Model for Human Corneal Diseases?


Structural, Ultrastructural, and Morphometric Study of the Zebrafish Ocular Surface: A Model for Human Corneal Diseases?

Domenico Puzzolo et al. Curr Eye Res. .


Purpose: A morphological and morphometric study of the adult zebrafish ocular surface was performed to provide a comprehensive description of its parts and to evaluate its similarity to the human.

Materials and methods: The eyes of adult zebrafish were processed for light, transmission and scanning electron microscopy, and for immunohistochemical stain of corneal nerves; a morphometric analysis was also performed on several morphological parameters.

Results: The corneal epithelium was formed by five layers of cells. No Bowman's layer could be demonstrated. The stroma consisted of lamellae of different thickness with few keratocytes. The Descemet's membrane was absent as the flat and polygonal endothelial cells directly adhered to the deepest corneal lamella. The immunohistochemical stain of neurofilaments failed to demonstrate corneal nerve fibers. The conjunctival epithelium was stratified, overlying the stroma formed by a subepithelial and a deep layer, this latter connected to the scleral cartilage. In the peripheral cornea and in the conjunctiva, many goblet and rodlet cells were observed. The morphometric analysis showed that the peripheral cornea epithelium was thicker when compared to the other parts of the ocular surface, with smaller superficial cells. Desmosomes and hemidesmosomes in the conjunctiva were significantly fewer in number than the other parts of the ocular surface. The stroma was thinner in the conjunctiva than in the cornea, while corneal lamellae were thicker in the intermediate stroma.

Conclusions: The zebrafish ocular surface showed significant differences compared to the human, such as the absence of Bowman's layer, Descemet's membrane and corneal nerve fibers, the reduced stromal thickness, and the presence of rodlet cells. On the basis of these original findings, it is suggested that the use of the zebrafish as a model for studying normal or pathological human corneas should be undertaken with particular caution.

Keywords: Bowman’s layer; Descemet’s membrane; Zebrafish; corneal nerves; ocular surface.

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