Nanoscale topography of the basement membrane underlying the corneal epithelium of the rhesus macaque

G. A. Abrams, S. L. Goodman, P. F. Nealey, M. Franco, Christopher J Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

306 Scopus citations


This paper quantitatively defines the nanoscale topography of the basement membrane underlying the anterior corneal epithelium of the macaque. Excised corneal buttons from macaques were placed in 2.5 mM ethylenediaminetetraacetate (EDTA) for 2.5 h, after which the epithelium was carefully removed to expose the underlying basement membrane. The integrity of the remaining basement membrane was verified using fluorescent microscopy in conjunction with antibody staining directed against laminin and collagen type IV as well as transmission electron microscopy. Characterization of the surface of the basement membrane was performed using transmission electron microscopy, high-resolution, low-voltage scanning electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy. Quantitative data were obtained with all three imaging techniques and compared. The basement membrane has a complex topography consisting of lightly cross-linked fibers intermingled with pores. The mean elevation of features measured by transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy was 149 ± 60 nm, 191 ± 72 nm, and 147 ± 73 nm, respectively. Mean fiber diameter as measured by SEM was 77 ± 44 nm and pore diameter was 72 ± 40 nm, with pores occupying approximately 15% of the total surface area. Similar feature types and dimensions were also found for Matrigel, a commercially available basement membrane-like complex, supporting that a minimum of artifact was introduced by corneal preparative procedures to remove the overlying epithelium. Topographic features amplified the surface area over which cell-substratum interactions occur by an estimated 400%. The three-dimensional structure of the basement membrane exhibits a rich complex topography of individual features, consisting of pores and fibers with dimensions ranging from 30 to 400 nm. These nanoscale substratum features may modulate fundamental cell behaviors such as adhesion, migration, proliferation, and differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-46
Number of pages8
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Cornea
  • Electron microscopy
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Matrigel
  • Primate
  • Rhesus monkey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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