Re-orientation and faster, directed migration of lens epithelial cells in a physiological electric field

E Wang, M Zhao, J V Forrester, C D McCaig

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The vertebrate lens drives current through itself in a pattern which concentrates current efflux at the lens equator. Lens epithelial cells (LECs) move into this region where they change shape and differentiate into lens fibre cells. The mechanisms underpinning these cell behaviors are unclear. We have attempted tr, mimic, in isolation, the effects which such electrical signals have on LEC behaviors, by culturing LECs in a physiological DC electric field (EF) similar to that in lens. Primary human (PHLECs), primary bovine (PBLECs) and a transformed human cell line (THLECs) all changed shape to lie perpendicular to the EF, the same orientation which LECs adopt with respect to the equatorial EF as they differentiate into lens fibre cells. Exposure to an EF also significantly increased the migration rate of all three LEC types. All three LECs also showed directed cell migration although, curiously, different cell types moved in different directions. PBLECs and THLECs showed voltage-dependent, anode-directed migration, with a response threshold between 100-150 mV mm(-1) and 25-50 mV mm(-1), respectively. Small sheets of THLECs also migrated anodally. By contrast PHLECs migrated cathodally with a response threshold below 100 mV mm(-1). Reversing the polarity reversed the migration direction for each cell type. These observations raise three possibilities: (1) that small electric field may be one of the cues regulating lens epithelial cell behaviors in vivo; (2) that altering the in vivo electric field by lens replacement may contribute to the aberrant migration of epithelial cells in conditions such as posterior capsule opacification and (3) that applying electric fields mag be one way of controlling aberrant lens epithelial cell behaviors. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-98
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • lens epithelium
  • electric field
  • cell migration
  • cell orientation


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