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This article is the author's final published version in FASEB Journal, Volume 35, Issue 4, April 2021, Article number e21341.

The published version is available at

Copyright © 2020 The Authors. The FASEB Journal published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non- commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


Tissues typically harbor subpopulations of resident immune cells that function as rapid responders to injury and whose activation leads to induction of an adaptive immune response, playing important roles in repair and protection. Since the lens is an avascular tissue, it was presumed that it was absent of resident immune cells. Our studies now show that resident immune cells are a shared feature of the human, mouse, and chicken lens epithelium. These resident immune cells function as immediate responders to injury and rapidly populate the wound edge following mock cataract surgery to function as leader cells. Many of these resident immune cells also express MHCII providing them with antigen presenting ability to engage an adaptive immune response. We provide evidence that during development immune cells migrate on the ciliary zonules and localize among the equatorial epithelial cells of the lens adjacent to where the ciliary zonules associate with the lens capsule. These findings suggest that the vasculature-rich ciliary body is a source of lens resident immune cells. We identified a major role for these cells as rapid responders to wounding, quickly populating each wound were they can function as leaders of lens tissue repair. Our findings also show that lens resident immune cells are progenitors of myofibroblasts, which characteristically appear in response to lens cataract surgery injury, and therefore, are likely agents of lens pathologies to impair vision like fibrosis.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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