Corneal epithelium from 5–7-day old chick embryos was isolated with EDTA and grown in culture on frozen-killed lens as a substratum. Autoradiographs showed that in the presence of [3H]proline, the corneal epithelium synthesized and secreted onto the lens substratum, radioactive materials resistant to extraction by sodium hydroxide. The radioactive label was associated with newly formed striated collagen fibrils, large "sheets" of collagen, and basal lamina. The repeat period and interband pattern of the abundant new collagen sheets and fibrils was typical of "native" or so-called "mesenchymal" collagen. Collagen-like materials were observed in secretory (Golgi) vacuoles within the corneal cells and collagen fibrils within the intercellular canals (lateral interfaces) of the epithelium, as well as at the base of the cells. Both the granular endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complexes were highly developed in the corneal epithelium. In the discussion, the role of cytoplasmic organelles in collagen secretion, the origin and structure of the basal lamina, and variations in collagen polymerization patterns in vitro are reviewed and evaluated. The morphogenetic significance of the synthesis and secretion of collagen by embryonic epithelium is appraised and the production of true native-striated collagen by epithelium is stressed.

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