• BMP4;
  • BMP7;
  • HNK1;
  • Pax6;
  • Pax3;
  • anterior chamber;
  • ciliary epithelium


The embryonic optic cup generates four types of tissue: neural retina, pigmented epithelium, ciliary epithelium, and iris smooth muscle. Remarkably little attention has focused on the development of the iris smooth muscle since Lewis ([1903] J. Am. Anat. 2:405–416) described its origins from the anterior rim of the optic cup neuroepithelium. As an initial step toward understanding iris smooth muscle development, I first determined the spatial and temporal pattern of the development of the iris smooth muscle in the chick by using the HNK1 antibody, which labels developing iris smooth muscle. HNK1 labeling shows that iris smooth muscle development is correlated in time and space with the development of the ciliary epithelial folds. Second, because neural crest is the only other neural tissue that has been shown to generate smooth muscle (Le Lievre and Le Douarin [1975] J. Embryo. Exp. Morphol. 34:125–154), I sought to determine whether iris smooth muscle development shares similarities with neural crest development. Two members of the BMP superfamily, BMP4 and BMP7, which may regulate neural crest development, are highly expressed by cells at the site of iris smooth muscle generation. Third, because humans and mice that are heterozygous for Pax6 mutations have no irides (Hill et al. [1991] Nature 354:522–525; Hanson et al. [1994] Nat. Genet. 6:168–173), I determined the expression of Pax6. I also examined the expression of Pax3 in the developing anterior optic cup. The developing iris smooth muscle coexpresses Pax6 and Pax3. I suggest that some of the eye defects caused by mutations in Pax6, BMP4, and BMP7 may be due to abnormal iris smooth muscle. Developmental Dynamics 232:385–392, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.