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Biochemistry - Ophthalmology

Congenital Cataract Causing Mutants of aA-Crystallin/sHSP Form Aggregates and Aggresomes Degraded through Ubiquitin-Proteasome Pathway
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Author: Ilangovan Raju et al.

by Ilangovan Raju, Edathara C. Abraham


Mutations of human aA-crystallin cause congenital cataract by protein aggregation. How mutations of aA-crystallin cause disease pathogenesis through protein aggregation is not well understood. To better understand the cellular events leading to protein aggregation, we transfected cataract causing mutants, R12C, R21L, R21W, R49C, R54C, R116C and R116H, of human aA-crystallin in HeLa cells and examined the formation of intracellular protein aggregates and aggresomes by confocal microscopy.

Methodology/Principal Findings

YFP-tagged human aA-wild-type (aA-wt) was sub-cloned and the mutants were generated by site-directed mutagenesis. The aA-wt and the mutants were individually transfected or co-transfected with CFP-tagged aA-wt or aB-wild-type (aB-wt) in HeLa cells. Overexpression of these mutants forms multiple small dispersed cytoplasmic aggregates as well as aggresomes. Co-expression of aB-wt with these mutants significantly inhibited protein aggregates where as co-expression with aA-wt enhanced protein aggregates which seems to be due to co-aggregation of the mutants with aA-wt. Aggresomes were validated by double immunofluorescence by co-localization of ?-tubulin, a centrosome marker protein with aA-crystallin. Furthermore, increased ubiquitination was detected in R21W, R116C and R116H as assessed by western blot analyses. Immunostaining with an ubiquitin antibody revealed that ubiquitin inclusions in the perinuclear regions were evident only in R116C transfected cells. Pulse chase assay, after cycloheximide treatment, suggested that R116C degraded faster than the wild-type control.


Mutants of aA-crystallin form aggregates and aggresomes. Co-expression of aA-wt with the mutants increased aggregates and co-expression of aB-wt with the mutants significantly decreased the aggregates. The mutant, R116C protein degraded faster than wild-type control and increased ubiquitination was evident in R116C expressing cells.