Abstract Contact inhibition is an important mechanism for maintaining corneal endothelium in a non-replicative state. Protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) play a role in regulating the integrity of cell–cell contacts, differentiation, and growth. In this study, we aimed to evaluate whether phosphatases are involved in the maintenance of contact-dependent inhibition of proliferation in corneal endothelial cells and to identify candidate PTPs that are expressed in these cells and might be involved in regulation of contact inhibition. Confluent cultures of rat corneal endothelial cells or endothelium in ex vivo corneas were treated with the general phosphatase inhibitor, sodium orthovanadate (SOV). Immunocytochemistry (ICC) evaluated the effect of SOV on cell–cell contacts by staining for ZO-1, and on cell cycle progression by staining for Ki67. Transverse sections of rat cornea and cultured rat corneal endothelial cells were used to test for expression of the candidate PTPs: PTP-mu, PTP-LAR, PTP1B, SHP-1, SHP-2, and PTEN using ICC and either Western blots or RT-PCR. ZO-1 staining demonstrated that SOV induced a time-dependent release of cell–cell contacts in confluent cultures of corneal endothelial cells and in the endothelium of ex vivo corneas. Staining for Ki67 indicated that SOV promoted limited cell cycle progression in the absence of serum. PTP-mu, PTP1B, SHP-1, SHP-2, and PTEN, but not PTP-LAR, were expressed in rat corneal endothelial cells in situ and in culture. The subcellular location of PTP-mu and PTP1B differed in subconfluent and confluent cells, while that of SHP-1, SHP-2, and PTEN was similar, regardless of confluent status. Western blots confirmed the expression of PTP1B, SHP-1, SHP-2, and PTEN. RT-PCR confirmed expression of PTP-mu mRNA. Phosphatases are involved in regulation of junctional integrity and of cell proliferation in corneal endothelial cells. PTP-mu, PTP1B, SHP-1, SHP-2, and PTEN are expressed in rat corneal endothelium and may be involved in regulation of contact inhibition in these normally non-proliferating cells.