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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 6;8(8):e70336. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070336. Print 2013.

Structural integrity of the Greek key motif in βγ-crystallins is vital for central eye lens transparency.

Author information

1
Hyderabad Eye Research Foundation, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

We highlight an unrecognized physiological role for the Greek key motif, an evolutionarily conserved super-secondary structural topology of the βγ-crystallins. These proteins constitute the bulk of the human eye lens, packed at very high concentrations in a compact, globular, short-range order, generating transparency. Congenital cataract (affecting 400,000 newborns yearly worldwide), associated with 54 mutations in βγ-crystallins, occurs in two major phenotypes nuclear cataract, which blocks the central visual axis, hampering the development of the growing eye and demanding earliest intervention, and the milder peripheral progressive cataract where surgery can wait. In order to understand this phenotypic dichotomy at the molecular level, we have studied the structural and aggregation features of representative mutations.

METHODS:

Wild type and several representative mutant proteins were cloned, expressed and purified and their secondary and tertiary structural details, as well as structural stability, were compared in solution, using spectroscopy. Their tendencies to aggregate in vitro and in cellulo were also compared. In addition, we analyzed their structural differences by molecular modeling in silico.

RESULTS:

Based on their properties, mutants are seen to fall into two classes. Mutants A36P, L45PL54P, R140X, and G165fs display lowered solubility and structural stability, expose several buried residues to the surface, aggregate in vitro and in cellulo, and disturb/distort the Greek key motif. And they are associated with nuclear cataract. In contrast, mutants P24T and R77S, associated with peripheral cataract, behave quite similar to the wild type molecule, and do not affect the Greek key topology.

CONCLUSION:

When a mutation distorts even one of the four Greek key motifs, the protein readily self-aggregates and precipitates, consistent with the phenotype of nuclear cataract, while mutations not affecting the motif display 'native state aggregation', leading to peripheral cataract, thus offering a protein structural rationale for the cataract phenotypic dichotomy "distort motif, lose central vision".

PMID:
23936409
PMCID:
PMC3735602
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0070336
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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