Int. J. Dev. Biol. 35: 231 - 237 (1991)
© UPV/EHU Press

The ability of the epithelium of diencephalic origin to differentiate into cells of the ocular lens.

G Juric-Lekic, F Bulic-Jakus, B Kablar and A Svajger

Institute of Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Zagreb, Republic of Croatia, Yugoslavia.

ABSTRACT After the discovery that in adult salamanders following lentectomy a new, functional lens develops by transdifferentiation (cell-type conversion) of previously depigmented epithelial cells of the iris (Wolffian lens regeneration), this phenomenon has been intensively studied by various experimental approaches. During the last two decades it was shown that pleiomorphic aggregates of atypical lens cells (lentoids) differentiated in reaggregates of dissociated cells of the chick neural retina and in spread cell cultures of the pigmented epithelium of the iris and retina, of the neural retina and the pineal gland of the chick embryo. The neural retina of human fetuses and adults also displayed this capacity. We showed that lentoids developed at a low incidence in renal isografts of rat embryonic shields or isolated embryonic ectoderm and of lentectomized eyes of rat fetuses, as well as in organ cultures of rat embryonic shields in chemically defined media. The addition of transferrin significantly increased the incidence of differentiation of lentoids in explants. In both renal isografts and explants in vitro a continuous transformation of retinal epithelial cells into atypical lens cells was observed. In renal isografts lentoids were also observed to originate from the ependyma of the brain ventricle. All tissues having the capacity to convert into lens cells belong to the diencephalon in a broad sense. Evolutionary aspects of this feature are discussed.