Glucocorticoid-induced ocular hypertension has been demonstrated in both animals and humans. It is possible that glucocorticoid-induced changes in trabecular meshwork (TM) cells are responsible for this hypertension. In order to elaborate further the effect of glucocorticoids on the trabecular meshwork, the ultrastructural consequences of dexamethasone (DEX) treatment were examined in three different human TM cell lines. Confluent TM cells were treated with 0.1 μd of DEX for 14 days, and then processed for light, epifluorescent microscopy or transmission electron microscopy (TEN). The effect of DEX treatment on TM cell and nuclear size was quantified using computer assisted morphometrics. Morphometric analysis showed a significant increase in both TM cell and nuclear size after 14 days of DEX treatment. Epifluorescent microscopy of rhodamine-phalloidin stained, control TM cells showed the normal arrangement of stress fibers. In contrast, DEX-treated TM cells showed unusual geodesic dome-like cross-linked actin networks. Control TM cells had the normal complement and arrangement of organelles as well as electron dense inclusions and large vacuoles. DEX-treated TM cells showed stacked arrangements of smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum, proliferation of the Golgi apparatus, pleomorphic nuclei and increased amounts of extracellular matrix material. The DEX-induced alterations observed in the present study may be an indication of the processes that are occurring in the in vivo disease process.