Previous studies of actin and actin-binding proteins in corneal myofibroblasts suggest the development of a contractile apparatus composed, in part, of F-actin micro-filament bundles, i.e. stress fibers. To better understand the mechanics of wound contraction and the relationship between microfilament bundles and wound closure, we have analyzed the spatial and temporal organization of stress fibers during the process of corneal wound healing. Rabbit corneas (26 eyes) received 6 mm full-thickness, central incisions and were studied at various times for F-actin organization using en bloc (whole cornea) staining with FITC-phalloidin, as well as conventional histological techniques. 3-D datasets (z-series of 40 en face optical sections, 1 micron steps) were collected using the Biorad MRC-600 laser scanning confocal microscope at various regions within the wound. At 7 days, 3-D analysis showed randomly oriented, interconnected F-actin filament bundles (stress fibers). Between 7 and 28 days, stress fibers appeared to organize gradually into planes parallel to the wound surface, with a large population achieving a final orientation nearly parallel to the long axis of the wound. Using Fourier Transform analysis techniques, an orientation index (OI) was calculated to quantitate global fiber orientation at each time point. Analysis of variance demonstrated a significant change (P < 0.001) in overall stress fiber orientation from a random distribution at day 7 to an alignment more parallel to the lateral wound borders at day 28. Overall, these data suggest that stress fibers undergo temporal changes in spatial organization that correlate with wound closure, and that wound closure does not involve the development of previously described contractile or tractional forces aligned directly across the wound.
- © 1993 by Company of Biologists