Non-vascular smooth muscle cells in the human choroid: distribution, development and further characterization


Professor C. A. May, Anatomisches Institut, Fetscherstr. 74, 01307 Dresden, Germany. T: +49 351 458 6105; F: +49 351-458-6303; E:


To characterize further non-vascular smooth muscle cells (NVSMC) in the choroid of the human eye, extensive morphological studies were performed including a three-dimensional distribution of NVSMC in the adult human eye and their appearance during development. Whole mounts and sections through the choroid and sclera of eyes of 42 human donors (between the 13th week of gestation and 89 years of age) were stained with antibodies against smooth muscle actin and other markers for smooth muscle cells. On the basis of their morphological localization, three groups of NVSMC could be distinguished in the adult eyes: (a) a semicircular arrangement of NVSMC in the suprachoroid and inner sclera, around the entry of posterior ciliary arteries and nerves; (b) NVSMC parallel to the vessels in the posterior eye segment between the point of entry of the posterior ciliary arteries and the point of exit of the vortex veins; and (c) a dense plaque-like arrangement of NVSMC in the suprachoroid, overlying the foveal region. The last of these groups showed most pronounced interindividual differences. During development, the first NVSMC to be observed at the 20th week of gestation belonged to group b. A complete NVSMC network was first observed in a 6-year-old donor eye. All three groups stained positive for smoothelin, caldesmon and calponin in all localizations. The NVSMC show a distinct distribution that might reflect different aspects of their function in the choroid and suprachoroid. All cells could be histochemically characterized as truly contractile.