We previously described cultures of chick embryo lens cells which displayed a marked degree of differentiation. In this report, the junctions found between the lens fiber-like cells in the differentiated "lentoids" are characterized in several ways. Thin-section methods with electron microscopy first demonstrated that numerous, large junctions between lentoid cells accompanied the other differentiated features of these cells. Freeze-fracture techniques, including quantitative analysis, then revealed that (a) junctional particles were loosely arranged as is typical of fiber cells, (b) the population of individual junctional areas in culture was indistinguishable from that found in 10- to 12-day chick embryo lenses, and (c) apparent junction formation occurred during the development of the lens cells, with lacy arrays of particles being associated with fiber-like junctions. In addition, gap junctions with hexagonally packed particles, typical of lens epithelial cells, largely disappeared during the course of differentiation. Injection of tracer dyes into lentoid cells resulted in rapid intercellular movement of dye, consistent with functional cell-to-cell channels connecting lentoid cells. During the development of the lens cells in culture, as junction formation occurred, an increase of approximately eightfold in MP28 protein was observed within the cells. These combined results indicate that (a) extensive lens fiber junctions and functional cell-to-cell channels are found between differentiated lentoid cells in vitro, (b) lens fiber junctions appear to form during the course of lens cell differentiation in culture, (c) a significant increase occurs in the putative junctional protein before the cultures are highly developed, (d) the increased levels of MP28 and junction formation may be required for the full expression of the differentiated state in the lens fiber cell, and (e) this culture system should prove to be valuable for additional experiments on lens junctions and for other studies requiring the development of lens fiber cells in vitro.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge Judson Sheridan for permitting us to use his dye-injection equipment in the study reported here as well as for discussing the data and the developing manuscript, and Kae Ebling and Virginia McTavish for typing the manuscript. This work was supported by NIH Grants CA-28548 and GM-37230 (to R.G.J.) and CA-36749 (to A.S.M.).
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