Purpose: The goal of this study was to characterize the morphology of the mucinous layer on rabbit, bovine, owl, and human corneal endothelial cells. Methods: Corneoscleral buttons were fixed using cetylpyridinium chloride to stabilize "mucus" and the tissue was prepared for transmission electron microscopy. Photomicrographs were measured to determine the thickness of the endothelial and epithelial mucinous layer in the central cornea. Results: The endothelial mucinous layer was seen as a nearly uniform electrodense region on the apical aspect of the endothelium. It was found to be 0.9 μm, 0.9 μm, 0.9 μm, and 0.5 μm thick in rabbit, bovine, owl, and human, respectively. The owl endothelium had an additional less electrodense layer with a granular appearance and a thickness of about 200 μm. The mucinous layer on the epithelium was similar in appearance to that on the endothelium and across species. Conclusions: The morphologic similarity of the endothelial and epithelial mucinous layers is a serendipitous finding that should prove valuable in experimental design. Ultimately, it is hoped that studies of the posterior corneal surface will deepen our knowledge of endothelial protection.
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