PAX6 Expression Patterns in the Adult Human Limbal Stem Cell Niche

Cells. 2023 Jan 23;12(3):400. doi: 10.3390/cells12030400.


Paired box 6 (PAX6), a nuclear transcription factor, determines the fate of limbal epithelial progenitor cells (LEPC) and maintains epithelial cell identity. However, the expression of PAX6 in limbal niche cells, primarily mesenchymal stromal cells (LMSC), and melanocytes is scarce and not entirely clear. To distinctly assess the PAX6 expression in limbal niche cells, fresh and organ-cultured human corneoscleral tissues were stained immunohistochemically. Furthermore, the expression of PAX6 in cultured limbal cells was investigated. Immunostaining revealed the presence of PAX6-negative cells which were positive for vimentin and the melanocyte markers Melan-A and human melanoma black-45 in the basal layer of the limbal epithelium. PAX6 staining was not observed in the limbal stroma. Moreover, the expression of PAX6 was observed by Western blot in cultured LEPC but not in cultured LMSC or LM. These data indicate a restriction of PAX6 expression to limbal epithelial cells at the limbal stem cell niche. These observations warrant further studies for the presence of other PAX isoforms in the limbal stem cell niche.

Keywords: PAX6; limbal epithelial progenitor cells; limbal niche cells; limbal stem cell niche; limbal stem cells; melanocytes; mesenchymal stem cells.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Epithelium, Corneal* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Limbal Stem Cells
  • Limbus Corneae* / metabolism
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors
  • PAX6 protein, human
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.