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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51401. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051401. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

The mutation V42M distorts the compact packing of the human gamma-S-crystallin molecule, resulting in congenital cataract.

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Prof. Brien Holden Eye Research Centre, Hyderabad Eye Research Foundation, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India.



Human γS-crystallin is an important component of the human eye lens nucleus and cortex. The mutation V42M in the molecule causes severe congenital cataract in children. We compare the structure of the mutant protein with that of the wild type in order to understand how structural changes in the mutant relate to the mechanism of opacification.


Both proteins were made using conventional cloning and expression procedures. Secondary and tertiary structural features of the proteins were analyzed using spectral methods. Structural stabilities of the proteins were analyzed using chemical and thermal denaturation methods. Self-aggregation was monitored using extrinsic spectral probes. Molecular modeling was used to compare the structural features of the two proteins.


While the wild type and mutant have the same secondary structure, molecular modeling and fluorescence analysis suggest the mutant to have a more open tertiary structure, with a larger hydrophobic surface. Experiments using extrinsic probes reveal that the mutant readily self-aggregates, with the suggestion that the aggregates might be similar to amyloidogenic fibrils. Chemical denaturation indicates that while the wild type exhibits the classic two-state transition, V42M goes through an intermediate state, and has a distinctly lower stability than the wild type. The temperature of thermal unfolding of the mutant is also distinctly lower. Further, the mutant readily precipitates and scatters light more easily than the wild type.


The replacement of valine in position 42 by the longer and bulkier methionine in human γS-crystallin perturbs the compact β-sheet core packing topology in the N-terminal domain of the molecule, exposes nonpolar residues thereby increasing the surface hydrophobicity and weakens the stability of the protein, thus promoting self-aggregation leading to light scattering particles. This set of changes in the properties of the mutant offers a molecular insight into the mechanism of opacification.

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