A unique morphological feature of the embryonic avian cornea is the uniformity of its complement of striated collagen fibrils, each of which has a diameter of 25 nm. We have asked whether this apparent morphological uniformity also reflects an inherent uniformity of the structural and physical properties of these fibrils. For this we have examined the in situ thermal stability of the type I collagen within these fibrils. Corneal tissue sections were reacted at progressively higher temperatures with conformation-dependent monoclonal antibodies directed against the triple-helical domain of the type I collagen molecule. These studies show that the cornea contains layers of collagen fibrils with greater than average stability. The two most prominent of these extend uninterrupted across the entire width of the cornea, and then appear to insert into thick bundles of scleral collagen, which in turn appear to insert into the scleral ossicles, a ring of bony plates which circumscribe the sclera of the avian eye. Once formed, the bands may act to stabilize the shape of the cornea or, conversely, to alter it during accommodation.

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