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Genesis. 2004 Dec;40(4):205-17.

Unique contribution of heat shock transcription factor 4 in ocular lens development and fiber cell differentiation.

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Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Department of Radiology, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia 30912-3175, USA.


Mammalian ocular lens development results via a differentiation program that is highly regulated by tissue-specific transcription factors. Central to this is the terminal differentiation of fiber cells, which develop from epithelial cells on the anterior surface of the lens, accompanied by a change in cell shape and expression of structural proteins (such as membrane proteins MP19, MIP26, connexin 43, 46, and 50, cytoskeletal proteins CP49, CP115, and alpha, beta, and gamma crystallins), creating a transparent, refractive index gradient in the lens. Mutations in genes controlling eye development and in lens structural protein genes are associated with multiple ocular developmental disorders, including cataracts and other opacities of the lens. Here we show that heat shock transcription factor 4 (HSF4) expression in the developing lens is required for correct lens development and that inactivation of hsf4 leads to early postnatal cataract formation with primary effects specific to terminal fiber cell differentiation. These data suggest that HSF4 acts as a critical transcription factor for lens-specific target gene expression, in particular regulating the small 25 kDa heat shock protein that acts as a modifier for lens opacity and cataract development. Thus, HSF4 fulfills a central role in controlling spatial and temporal expression of genes critical for correct development and function of the lens.

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