Abstract. Mitotic cells in normal, mature rat corneal epithelium were examined with a light microscope on serial, semi-thick plastic sections.
Classification of mitotic figures into horizontally, obliquely or vertically positioned with reference to the epithelial basal lamina has shown that no single configuration predominates. A striking correlation between the position of the daughter cells after cytokinesis and their morphology has been observed. Horizontal cytokinetic pairs were morphologically symmetric but vertical ones were asymmetric, displaying distinct differences between daughter cells. Analysis of earlier mitotic phases has shown that the asymmetry could also be observed in vertical anaphases and telophases.
The data provide clear morphological evidence for real asymmetric (unequal) cell division in a replacing epithelium in an adult mammal. It is concluded that asymmetric cell division in the corneal epithelium coexists with, and is as frequent as symmetric (equal) cell division. Randomness of mitotic spindle positioning implies that diverse forms of cell transfer from the proliferative into the differentiative epithelial compartments must operate. Therefore, the universality of the general model of cell renewal in stratified epithelia, which assumes a strong predominance of horizontal mitoses, exclusively equal mitotic divisions and one form of cell transfer, is questioned.