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Mol Cell Biol. 1994 Feb;14(2):1355-63.

Xenopus gamma-crystallin gene expression: evidence that the gamma-crystallin gene family is transcribed in lens and nonlens tissues.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville 22903.


Crystallins, the major gene products of the lens, accumulate to high levels during the differentiation of the vertebrate lens. Although crystallins were traditionally thought to be lens specific, it has recently been shown that some are also expressed at very low levels in nonlens tissues. We have examined the embryonic expression pattern of gamma-crystallins, the most abundant crystallins of the embryonic lens in Xenopus laevis. The expression profile of five Xenopus gamma-crystallin genes mirrors the pattern of lens differentiation in X. laevis, exhibiting on average a 100-fold increase between tailbud and tadpole stages. Four of these genes are also ubiquitously expressed outside the lens at a very low level, the first demonstration of nonlens expression of any gamma-crystallin gene; expression of the remaining gene was not detected outside the head region, thus suggesting that there may be two classes of gamma-crystallin genes in X. laevis. Predictions regarding control mechanisms responsible for this dual mode of expression are discussed. This study raises the question of whether any crystallin, on stringent examination, will be found exclusively in the lens.

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