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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Apr 12;91(8):3112-6.

Alpha-crystallin/small heat shock protein has autokinase activity.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


The alpha-crystallins (alpha A and alpha B) are major water-soluble proteins of the transparent eye lens that are expressed in a variety of tissues and can function as molecular chaperones. alpha B-crystallin is also a small heat shock protein associated with numerous degenerative diseases and abnormal growth patterns. Previous experiments have shown that alpha A-and alpha B-crystallin are phosphorylated on specific serine residues by a cAMP-dependent pathway. Here we provide evidence that either total bovine alpha-crystallin or its isolated polypeptides can autophosphorylate serine by a cAMP-independent mechanism in the presence of Mg2+ and [gamma-32P]ATP; the autophosphorylated products isoelectrically focus with the authentic phosphorylated forms of the alpha-crystallin polypeptides. Thus, the alpha A- and alpha B-crystallin/small heat shock protein polypeptides are enzyme-crystallins which may be involved in metabolic pathways important for the development, maintenance, or pathology of the lens and other tissues.

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