The ocular lens is a non-vascular and non-innervated transparent organ that plays an important role in vision processing. This unique organ is derived from the embryonic ectoderm of the brain region through a complicated differentiation process in which apoptosis plays a key role. First, when the committed ectoderm becomes thickened and invaginated, the defined number of cells required to form the lens vesicle is partially determined by apoptosis. Second, separation of lens vesicle from the above corneal ectoderm is executed through apoptosis of the lens stalk cells. Finally, differentiation of the lens epithelial cells is controlled by the regulators, most of which are involved in control of apoptosis at multiple signaling steps. The lens is also characterized by continuous growth and differentiation in the adulthood. Through the different stages of growth and differentiation in the adult lens, various stress conditions can induce apoptosis of the lens epithelial cells, leading to eventual non-congenital cataractogenesis. The present review summarizes the current knowledge on the functions and regulators of apoptosis in the ocular lens.
Keywords: Apoptosis, lens, cataract, proliferation, differentiation, development, p53, α-crystallin, caspase-3, Bcl-2, Bax, Bak, PP-1, metamorphosis, fragmentation, programmed cell death, ocular diseases, retina, cornea, cataractogenesis, ontogeny, chromatopycnosis, hyperchromatosis, chromatolysis, mitotic metabolites, electron microscopy, Necrosis, fertilization, opacity, blindness, microphthalmia, tumor, retinoblastoma protein, phenotypes, human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, UV irradiation, vacuolization, opacification, Caenorhabditis elegans, tumor suppressor, mitomycin C, oxidative stress, apoptosome, diabetic retinopathy