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J Mol Biol. 2007 Nov 16;374(1):162-9. Epub 2007 Sep 14.

Human cataract lens membrane at subnanometer resolution.

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Institut Curie, UMR168-CNRS, 26 Rue d'Ulm, 75248 Paris Cedex 05, France.


Human pathologies often originate from molecular disorders. Therefore, imaging technology as one of the bases for the identification and understanding of pathologies must provide views of single molecules at subnanometer resolution. Membrane proteins mediate many of life's most important processes, and their malfunction is often lethal or leads to severe disease. The membrane proteins aquaporin-0 (AQP0) and connexons form junctional microdomains between healthy lens core cells in which AQP0 form square arrays surrounded by connexons. Malfunction of both proteins results in the formation of cataract. We have used high-resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM) to image junctional microdomains in membranes from an individual human eye lens with senile cataract. Images at subnanometer resolution report individual helix-connecting loops of four amino acid residues on the AQP0 surface. We describe the supramolecular assembly and the conformational state of AQP0 in junctional microdomains, where a mixture of truncated junctional and full-length water channel AQP0 form square arrays. Imaging of microdomain borders revealed individual AQP0 tetramers and no associated connexon, indicating a lack of metabolite transport, waste accumulation, and enlarged regions of non-adhering membranes, causing cataract in this individual. This first high-resolution view of the membrane of this pathological human tissue provides insights into cataract pathology at the single membrane protein level, and indicates the power of the AFM as a future tool in medical imaging at subnanometer resolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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