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Abstract

An otherwise normal adult Charles River rat (CD strain) was observed to have no recognizable eyes. Breeding and morphological studies were undertaken to determine the nature of the ocular defect, as well as its cause and pathogenesis. The anomaly was found to be inherited as an autosomal recessive trait with variable expressivity. It was characterized by unilateral or bilateral congenital microphthalmia with multiple associated ocular abnormalities including a neuroepithelial cyst, optic nerve aplasia, and cataract. In several elderly rats, no eye was found histologically in the orbit, suggesting reabsorption of malformed tissues as the basis of the anophthalmia. Study of the prenatal morphogenesis of the microphthalmia suggested that the primary disorder reflects a disturbance of the neuroepithelium of the retinal anlage and results in defective early formation of the optic cup. The abnormalities in other ocular structures, particularly in the lens, are considered secondary. This ocular malformation emphasizes the early interactions and interdependence of the lens and retina in normal morphogenesis and provides an animal model for study of lens-retinal relationships in abnormal morphogenesis. It is particularly relevant in understanding the pathogenesis of microphthalmia with cysts in the human eye.