To investigate the origin and distribution of granular deposits in the corneas of 3 patients with granular dystrophy, 1 of whom had previously received a lamellar keratoplasty in which the granular dystrophy had recurred.
Corneal tissue from 2 patients with primary granular dystrophy (patients 1 and 2) and from a patient with recurrent granular dystrophy (patient 3) was examined. Corneal graft tissue was fixed in (1) 3% glutaraldehyde in sodium cacodylate buffer, (2) 2.5.% glutaraldehyde in sodium acetate buffer containing cuprolinic blue, and (3) 4% paraformaldehyde in phosphate-buffered saline.
In patient 1 (aged 48 years), electron-dense granular structures were observed in epithelium, Bowman layer, and throughout the stroma. Bowman layer was absent in several places. Patient 2 (aged 78 years) showed similar features except with more deposits in the stroma. In patient 3 (aged 48 years), granular structures were heavily deposited in the epithelium; there were also some deposits in the posterior (host) stroma, some of which were associated with partially degenerated keratocytes. Bowman layer appeared normal. In all 3 patients, the intracellular or extracellular granular structures were surrounded by fine fibrillar material and abnormal proteoglycans. Electron-lucent spaces within the corneal stroma contained large quantities of abnormal proteoglycan filaments that were attached in part to collagen fibrils.
Results from patient 3 support an epithelial origin for the deposits, presumably from keratoepithelin, aggregated with other proteins. The role of keratocytes is less clear, although the presence of deposits in the stroma of all 3 patients, some associated with keratocytes, suggests that these cells might produce granular material in addition to abnormal proteoglycans.