• chimera;
  • chimaera;
  • X-inactivation mosaic;
  • mouse eye;
  • cornea;
  • limbal stem cells;
  • structural proliferative unit;
  • coherent clone


Patterns of growth and cell movement in the developing and adult corneal epithelium were investigated by analysing clonal patches of LacZ-expressing cells in chimeric and X-inactivation mosaic mice. It was found that cell proliferation throughout the basal corneal epithelium during embryogenesis and early postnatal life creates a disordered mosaic pattern of LacZ+ clones that contrasts with patterns of proliferation and striping produced during the later embryonic stages of retinal pigmented epithelium development. The early mosaic pattern in the corneal epithelium is replaced in the first 12 postnatal weeks by an ordered pattern of radial stripes or sectors that reflects migration without mixing of the progeny of clones of limbal stem cells. In contrast to previous assumptions, it was found that maturation of the activity of limbal stem cells and the pattern of migration of their progeny are delayed for several weeks postnatally. No evidence was found for immigration of the progeny of stem cells until the 5th postnatal week. There are approximately 100 clones of limbal stem cells initially, and clones are lost during postnatal life. Our studies provide a new assay for limbal and corneal defects in mutant mice. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.