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André A. M. Torricelli, Vivek Singh, Marcony R. Santhiago, Steven E. Wilson; The Corneal Epithelial Basement Membrane: Structure, Function, and Disease. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2013;54(9):6390-6400. doi: 10.1167/iovs.13-12547.
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The corneal epithelial basement membrane (BM) is positioned between basal epithelial cells and the stroma. This highly specialized extracellular matrix functions not only to anchor epithelial cells to the stroma and provide scaffolding during embryonic development but also during migration, differentiation, and maintenance of the differentiated epithelial phenotype. Basement membranes are composed of a diverse assemblage of extracellular molecules, some of which are likely specific to the tissue where they function; but in general they are composed of four primary components—collagens, laminins, heparan sulfate proteoglycans, and nidogens—in addition to other components such as thrombospondin-1, matrilin-2, and matrilin-4 and even fibronectin in some BM. Many studies have focused on characterizing BM due to their potential roles in normal tissue function and disease, and these structures have been well characterized in many tissues. Comparatively few studies, however, have focused on the function of the epithelial BM in corneal physiology. Since the normal corneal stroma is avascular and has relatively low keratocyte density, it is expected that the corneal BM would be different from the BM in other tissues. One function that appears critical in homeostasis and wound healing is the barrier function to penetration of cytokines from the epithelium to stroma (such as transforming growth factor β-1), and possibly from stroma to epithelium (such as keratinocyte growth factor). The corneal epithelial BM is also involved in many inherited and acquired corneal diseases. This review examines this structure in detail and discusses the importance of corneal epithelial BM in homeostasis, wound healing, and disease.
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