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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2007 Nov;48(11):5142-51.

Mapping of glutathione and its precursor amino acids reveals a role for GLYT2 in glycine uptake in the lens core.

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Department of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



To correlate the distribution of glutathione (GSH) and its precursor amino acids (cysteine, glycine, and glutamate) with the expression of their respective amino acid transporters in the rat lens.


Whole rat lenses were fixed, cryoprotected, and cryosectioned in either an equatorial or axial orientation. Sections were double labeled with cystine, glycine, glutamate, GSH, GLYT1, or GLYT2 antibodies, and the membrane marker wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). Sections were imaged by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Cystine, glycine, glutamate, and GSH labeling were quantified by using image-analysis software and intensity profiles plotted as a function of distance from the lens periphery. Western blot analysis was used to verify regional differences in amino acid transporter expression.


Cystine and glycine labeling in equatorial sections was most intense in the outer cortex, was diminished in the inner cortex, but was increased again in the core relative to the inner cortex. Glutamate and GSH labeling was most intense in the outer cortex and was diminished in the inner cortex to a minimum that was sustained throughout the core. The distribution of cystine and glutamate levels correlated well with the expression patterns observed previously for the cystine/glutamate exchanger (Xc-) and the glutamate transporter (EAAT4/5), respectively. Although high levels of glycine labeling in the outer cortex correlated well with the expression of the glycine transporter GLYT1, the absence of GLYT1 in the core, despite an increase of glycine in this region, suggests an alternative glycine uptake system such as GLYT2 exists in the core. Equatorial sections labeled with GLYT2 antibodies, showed that labeling in the outer cortex was predominantly cytoplasmic, but progressively became more membranous with distance into the lens. In the inner cortex and core, GLYT2 labeling was localized around the entire membrane of fiber cells. Western blot analysis confirmed GLYT2 to be expressed in the outer cortex, inner cortex, and core of the lens. Axial sections labeled for glycine revealed a track of high-intensity glycine labeling that extended from the anterior pole through to the core that was associated with the sutures.


The mapping of GSH and its precursor amino acids has shown that an alternative glycine uptake pathway exists in mature fiber cells. Although GLYT1 and -2 are likely to mediate glycine uptake in cortical fiber cells, GLYT2 alone appears responsible for the accumulation of glycine in the center of the lens. Enhancing the delivery of glycine to the core via the sutures may represent a pathway to protect the lens against the protein modifications associated with age-related nuclear cataract.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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