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Development. 2006 Mar;133(5):813-21. Epub 2006 Jan 26.

Caspase-dependent secondary lens fiber cell disintegration in alphaA-/alphaB-crystallin double-knockout mice.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Building 7, 7 Memorial Drive, MSC 0704, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


alphaB-crystallin has been demonstrated, in tissue culture experiments, to be a caspase 3 inhibitor; however, no animal model studies have yet been described. Here, we show that morphological abnormalities in lens secondary fiber cells of alphaA-/alphaB-crystallin gene double knockout (DKO) mice are consistent with, and probably result from, elevated DEVDase and VEIDase activities, corresponding to caspase 3 and caspase 6, respectively. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed an increased amount of caspase 6, and the active form of caspase 3, in specific regions of the DKO lens, coincident with the site of cell disintegration. TUNEL labeling illustrated a higher level of DNA fragmentation in the secondary fiber lens cells of DKO mice, compared with wild-type mice. Using a pull-down assay, we show interaction between caspase 6 and alphaA- but not alphaB-crystallin. These studies suggest that alpha-crystallin plays a role in suppressing caspase activity, resulting in retention of lens fiber cell integrity following degradation of mitochondria and other organelles, which occurs during the apoptosis-like pathway of lens cell terminal differentiation.

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