PURPOSE:In vertebrates, a corneal endothelium is essential for the maintenance of corneal transparency in a variety of environments. Knowledge of the surface structure of the corneal endothelium may assist our understanding of this unique tissue and its evolutionary development. Although there have been many studies of the corneal endothelium of humans and some mammals, there have been few in other vertebrates. METHODS:The field emission scanning electron microscope was used to study the surface structure of the corneal endothelium in the blowfish, Torquigener pleurogramma (Tetraodontidae, Teleostei), and to examine cell density. Cell areas were measured by using image-analysis software. RESULTS:The endothelium is composed of a sheet of interdigitating hexagonal and pentagonal cells with a mean area of 154 microm2 and a density of 6,486 cells/mm2. Two types of surface features are identified; primary cilia and microvilli. The cilia are cylindrical, protrude from either a pore or circular indentation in the cell center, and possess a knob-like ending. The microvilli are button-like protrusions with a density of -3.5 x 105 microvilli/mm2 or 54 microvilli/cell in central cornea. CONCLUSION:The results show that the surface structure of teleost endothelial cells is similar to those described for other vertebrates and indicate that cell density varies across classes, with the presence of cilia a more widespread occurrence than previously believed.