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Molecular Biology - Ophthalmology

Diverse Roles of Eph/ephrin Signaling in the Mouse Lens
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Author: Catherine Cheng et al.

by Catherine Cheng, Xiaohua Gong

Recent genetic studies show that the Eph/ephrin bidirectional signaling pathway is associated with both congenital and age-related cataracts in mice and humans. We have investigated the molecular mechanisms of cataractogenesis and the roles of ephrin-A5 and EphA2 in the lens. Ephrin-A5 knockout (-/-) mice often display anterior polar cataracts while EphA2(-/-) lenses show very mild cortical or nuclear cataracts at weaning age. The anterior polar cataract of ephrin-A5(-/-) lenses is correlated with multilayers of aberrant cells that express alpha smooth muscle actin, a marker for mesenchymal cells. Only select fiber cells are altered in ephrin-A5(-/-) lenses. Moreover, the disruption of membrane-associated ß-catenin and E-cadherin junctions is observed in ephrin-A5(-/-) lens central epithelial cells. In contrast, EphA2(-/-) lenses display normal monolayer epithelium while disorganization is apparent in all lens fiber cells. Immunostaining of ephrin-A5 proteins, highly expressed in lens epithelial cells, were not colocalized with EphA2 proteins, mainly expressed in lens fiber cells. Besides the previously reported function of ephrin-A5 in lens fiber cells, this work suggests that ephrin-A5 regulates ß-catenin signaling and E-cadherin to prevent lens anterior epithelial cells from undergoing the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition while EphA2 is essential for controlling the organization of lens fiber cells through an unknown mechanism. Ephrin-A5 and EphA2 likely interacting with other members of Eph/ephrin family to play diverse functions in lens epithelial cells and/or fiber cells.