Purpose: Although visual deprivation causes increased ocular elongation and myopia in both birds and mammals, changes in sclera appear to be in opposite directions. Because avian sclera has a cartilaginous layer as well as the fibrous layer found in mammals, we examined whether the scleral responses to various visual manipulations differ between the two layers.
Methods: To produce increases in ocular elongation and myopia, monocular diffusers or negative lenses were fitted to eyes. Conversely, to produce decreases in ocular elongation, diffusers were removed (restoring normal vision) or monocular positive lenses were fitted. Scleral layers were then dissected apart, and incorporation of labeled precursors into glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), DNA, and protein was assessed. Tissue coculture experiments were used to assess humoral interactions between scleral layers and with the choroid.
Results: In the cartilaginous layers, the incorporation of label into proteoglycans and DNA was significantly higher in eyes elongating faster than normal because of wearing diffusers or negative lenses and significantly lower than normal in eyes elongating slower than normal because of removal of the diffuser or wearing positive lenses. In the fibrous layers, the reverse was the case. Coculturing cartilaginous sclera from normal eyes with fibrous sclera from myopic or recovering eyes produced the same increase or decrease in sulfate incorporation into GAGs in the cartilaginous layer as though the tissue measured was from the animal providing the conditioning tissue. Coculturing with choroid, especially from recovering eyes, also inhibited cartilaginous sclera.
Conclusions: The fibrous layer of the avian sclera shows changes in sulfate incorporation into GAGs during deprivation and recovery from deprivation in the same direction as does the mammalian sclera, whereas the cartilaginous layer changes in the opposite direction. The responses of the cartilaginous layer may be controlled by the fibrous layer, although they are influenced by the choroid as well.