The pulling, pushing and fusing of lens fibers: a role for Rho GTPases.
Lens development and differentiation are intricate and complex processes characterized by distinct molecular and morphological changes. The growth of a transparent lens involves proliferation of the epithelial cells and their subsequent differentiation into secondary fiber cells. Prior to differentiation, epithelial cells at the lens equator exit from the cell cycle and elongate into long, ribbon-like cells. Fiber cell elongation takes place bidirectionally as fiber tips migrate both anteriorly and posteriorly along the apical surface of the epithelium and inner surface of the capsule, respectively. The differentiating fiber cells move inward from the periphery to the center of the lens on a continuous basis as the lens grows throughout life. Finally, when fiber cells reach the center or suture line, their basal and apical tips detach from the epithelium and capsule, respectively, and interlock with cells from the opposite direction of the lens and form the suture line. Further, symmetric packing of fiber cells and degradation of most of the cellular organelle during fiber cell terminal differentiation are crucial for lens transparency. These sequential events are presumed to depend on cytoskeletal dynamics and cell adhesive interactions; however, our knowledge of regulation of lens fiber cell cytosketal reorganization, cell adhesive interactions and mechanotransduction, and their role in lens morphogenesis and function is limited at present. Recent biochemical and molecular studies have targeted cytoskeletal signaling proteins, including Rho GTPases, Abl kinase interacting proteins, cell adhesion molecules, myosin II, Src kinase and phosphoinositide 3-kinase in the developing chicken and mouse lens and characterized components of the fiber cell basal membrane complex. These studies have begun to unravel the vital role of cytoskeletal proteins and their regulatory pathways in control of lens morphogenesis, fiber cell elongation, migration, differentiation, survival and mechanical properties.
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