Purpose: There is now considerable evidence that FGF is involved in lens differentiation and growth throughout life. The aim of this study was to determine potential sites of FGF production in and near the lens during morphogenesis, differentiation and growth.
Methods: The distribution of FGF-1 and FGF-2 mRNAs was analysed in embryonic, weanling and adult rat eyes by in situ hybridization.
Results: During lens morphogenesis, there was distinct expression of FGF-1, but not FGF-2, in the lens placode and retinal disc cells. Subsequently, both forms of FGF showed similar expression patterns. During lens differentiation, distinct expression of FGFs was associated with elongating primary fiber cells. From embryonic day 20 onwards, lenses showed strongest expression of FGF mRNAs in the transitional zone, where epithelial cells differentiate into fibers, with weaker expression in the anterior epithelium. Messenger RNAs for both FGFs were also localised in ocular tissues near the lens and bordering the ocular media, particularly the cornea, ciliary body, iris and neural retina.
Conclusions: These findings are consistent with the known distribution of FGF protein in the eye and implicate various ocular tissues as potential sources of FGF that may influence lens cells. Furthermore, the fact that lens cells have the potential for synthesizing FGF, together with evidence from previous studies that lens cells express FGF receptors and respond to lens-derived FGF, raises the possibility that some aspects of lens cell behaviour in situ may be influenced by autocrine mechanism(s) of FGF stimulation.