The embryonic chick corneal epithelium produces a highly structured acellular matrix beneath its basal surface during early development. This matrix, which contains collagen, serves as a morphogenetic template for subsequent stromal development in that the three-dimensional architecture of the adult corneal stroma is initially established, in miniature, in this epithelially derived connective tissue. Examination of the early corneal epithelium and matrix in both the light and electron microscope suggests that self assembly of the matrix may be one of several important factors in the morphogenesis of this early connective tissue.

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