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J Comp Physiol A. 1989 Feb;164(5):577-87.

The cellular eye lens and crystallins of cubomedusan jellyfish.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology, National Eye Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


The ultrastructure and major soluble proteins of the transparent eye lens of two cubomedusan jellyfish, Tripedalia cystophora and Carybdea marsupialis, have been examined. Each species has two complex eyes (one large and one small) on four sensory structures called rhopalia. The lenses consist of closely spaced cells with few organelles. The lens is situated next to the retina, with only an acellular layer separating it from the photoreceptors. SDS-PAGE showed that the large lens of C. marsupialis has only two crystallin polypeptide bands (with molecular masses of approximately 20,000 and 35,000 daltons), while that of T. cystophora has three bands (two with a molecular mass near 20,000 daltons and one with a molecular mass near 35,000 daltons). Interestingly, the small lens of T. cystophora appears to be markedly deficient in or lack the lower molecular weight proteins. The crystallins behaved as monomeric proteins by FPLC and showed no immunological reaction with antisera of the major squid crystallin, chicken delta-crystallin or mouse gamma-crystallin in western immunoblots. Very weak reactions were found with antimouse alpha- and beta-crystallin sera. The 35,000 dalton crystallin of T. cystophora was purified and called J1-crystallin. It contained relatively high leucine (13%) and tyrosine (9%) and low methionine (2%). Several tryptic peptides were sequenced. Weak sequence similarities were found with alpha- and beta-crystallins, which may account for some of the apparent weak immunological cross-reactivity with these vertebrate crystallins. A polyclonal antiserum made in rabbits from a synthetic peptide of J1-crystallin reacted strongly with J1-crystallin of T. cystophora and C. marsupialis in immunoblots; by contrast, no reaction was obtained with the lower molecular weight crystallins from these jellyfish, with the squid crystallin, or with any crystallins from the frog or human lens. Thus, despite the structural similarities between the cubomedusan, squid and vertebrate lenses, their crystallins appear very different.

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