Purpose. The purpose of this article is to review available information regarding development, structure, and function of Bowman's layer in the cornea. Disease-related abnormalities of Bowman's layer are described. A hypothesis is advanced to explain the development and maintenance of Bowman's layer.
Methods. Literature review and hypothesis formulation based on previous studies.
Results. Information is presented that supports the hypothesis that Bowman's layer forms as a result of cytokine-mediated interactions occurring between corneal epithelial cells and keratocytes that include chemotactic and apoptotic effects on the keratocytes. This hypothesis suggests that Bowman's layer results from such interactions beginning in early development and continuing into adulthood in humans and other animals, such as chickens.
Conclusions. Bowman's layer may be a visible indicator of ongoing stromal-epithelial interactions in the human and have no critical function in corneal physiology. Bowman's layer is commonly destroyed in diseases such as advanced bullous keratopathy where stromal-epithelial interactions may be interrupted. Bowman's-like layers often form in response to epithelium, for example when epithelial plugs extend into the stroma in corneas with radial keratotomy incisions.