Ultrastructure of the corneal stroma: a comparative study

Biophys J. 1993 Jan;64(1):273-80. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(93)81364-X.


Using a high intensity synchrotron x-ray source, we have recorded diffraction over a range of angles from the corneas of a wide variety of species. The results show that the interfibrillar Bragg spacing varies from 39 nm to 67 nm, the fibril diameter varies from 24 nm to 43 nm, but in the species studied intermolecular Bragg spacing is constant (1.58 +/- 0.03 nm). Using these data, a number of other structural parameters were calculated including the interfibrillar volume, V, and the surface-to-surface fibril separation, S. Large variations were found, particularly between aquatic and terrestrial animals. We found that the parameter which appears to be most constant throughout the species was the volume fraction, that is, the proportion of the tissue occupied by the hydrated fibrils. Ignoring the volume of the stroma occupied by cells, the tissue fibril volume fraction was (28 +/- 3)% for both aquatic and land animals. The observation of a constant volume fraction led us to propose a simple model in which collagen molecules and interfibrillar glycosaminoglycans occur in a fixed ratio in all the species--thus species with narrow fibrils have fewer interfibrillar glycosaminoglycans and the fibrils are thus more closely spaced, and vice versa. This model agrees with many of the experimental data on corneal composition and on the physical properties of the tissue reported in the literature.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Collagen / chemistry
  • Cornea / chemistry
  • Cornea / ultrastructure*
  • Glycosaminoglycans / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Species Specificity
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Collagen