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Bowman's Layer Structure and Function: Critical or Dispensable to Corneal Function? A Hypothesis

Wilson, Steven E. M.D.; Hong, Jong-Wook M.D.

Special Article

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.

From the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Submitted September 10, 1999.

Revision received November 11, 1999.

Accepted November 23, 1999.

Supported in part by National Eye Institute grant EY10056.

The authors have no commercial or proprietary interests in any of the products discussed in this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Steven E. Wilson, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Box 356485, Rm. RR801, HSB, Seattle, WA 98195-6485, U.S.A.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.