Evaluation of neural innervation in the human conventional outflow pathway distal to Schlemm's canal

Cheryl R. Hann, Michael D. Bentley, Andrew Vercnocke, Uttio Roy Chowdhury, Michael P. Fautsch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The distal outflow pathway of the human eye consists of the outer wall of Schlemm's canal, collector channels, and the deep-scleral, mid-scleral and episcleral vessels. It is the last region of transit for aqueous humor before returning to the venous system. While the trabecular meshwork, scleral spur, and inner wall of Schlemm's canal have been extensively analyzed to define their contributions to aqueous outflow, the role of the distal outflow pathway is not completely understood. Collector channels, emanating from Schlemm's canal were previously thought to be passive conduits for aqueous humor. However, recent studies have shown many collector channels contain flap-like appendages which move with changes in pressure. These findings, along with studies demonstrating innervation of episcleral vessels, have led to questions regarding whether other structures in the distal outflow pathway are under neural regulation and how this may influence aqueous humor outflow. This study evaluates the innervation of the outer wall of Schlemm's canal and collector channels, along with the deep-scleral, mid-scleral and episcleral vasculature with microcomputed tomography and 3-dimensional reconstruction, correlative light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy. Peripheral, autonomic, and sensory nerve fibers were found to be present adjacent to Schlemm's canal outer wall endothelium, collector channel endothelium, and in the different regions of the distal outflow vasculature. Nerves were more commonly identified in regions that contained collector channels when compared to regions without collector channels. These findings regarding the neural anatomy suggest an active neural regulation of aqueous humor outflow throughout the proximal and distal regions of the conventional outflow pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109132
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • 3D microcomputed tomography
  • Collector channel
  • Conventional outflow
  • Distal outflow pathway
  • Episcleral vessels
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Innervation
  • Osmium tetroxide enhanced tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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