PURPOSE. Between days 8 and 14 of neonatal development, the corneal stroma of the mouse undergoes critical changes in tissue thickness, cell density, and light scattering. The authors investigate the stromal matrix structure in wild-type and lumican-deficient corneas in this developmental phase. METHODS. Wild-type (n = 44) and lumican-deficient (n = 42) mouse corneas at neonatal days 8, 10, 12, and 14 were investigated by synchrotron x-ray diffraction to establish the average collagen fibril spacing, average collagen fibril diameter, and level of fibrillar organization in the stromal matrix. RESULTS. Collagen interfibrillar spacing in the normal mouse cornea became more closely packed between days 8 and 14, though not significantly so. In lumican-null mice, interfibrillar spacing was significantly elevated at days 8, 10, and 12, but not day 14, compared with that in wild-type mice. At all stages investigated, collagen fibrils were, on average, marginally thinner than normal in lumican-null mutants, and the spatial distribution of the fibrils was less well organized. CONCLUSIONS. Transient thickening of the corneal stroma of the normal mouse at eye opening is probably not caused by widespread, homogeneous rearrangement of collagen fibrils but more likely by a temporary increase in cell or stromal "lake" volume. Lumican, structurally influential in adult mouse corneas, is also a key molecule in the neonatal development of the stromal matrix.
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