By using low molecular weight dye injection and laser scanning confocal microscopy it has been possible to assess the degree of dye communication in several regions (intraepithelial, epithelium-fibre cell, fibre-epithefium and fibre-fibre) of the adult frog lens. These same areas of the lens have also been examined by freeze fracture electron microscopy for the presence and organisation of gap junctions. Epithelial cell lateral membranes have numerous gap junctions which efficiently transmitted dye to their neighbours though none was detectable in the underlying fibre cells. This was correlated with an apparent absence of gap junctions at the epithelium/fibre cell interface. Dye spread between cortical fibre cells was only observed in a subset of fibres in the bow region of the lens. Neither mature cortical fibres nor immature bow fibres appeared to be dye-coupled and we detected no dye passed from fibre cells to adjacent epithelial cells at their anterior ends. This pattern of dye communication was also correlated with the apparent absence of recognisable gap junctions on the lateral membranes of either the recently differentiated bow fibres or the mature cortical fibres. Classical gap junctions were only found on the membranes of fibres between five and ten cells in from the lens bow, i.e. the subset of fibres which were dye-coupled. No gap junctions were found between deeper cortical fibres or nuclear fibres, although they were characterised by a number of square arrays. Though electrically well coupled the adult frog lens may be relatively poorly dye coupled and this could depend on the age and differentiation stage of the cells concerned. The model of a freely communicating lens clearly requires re-examination by correlated physiological and morphological studies.
- fibre cell
- laser scanning confocal microscopy
- Lucifer Yellow
- Rana pipiens