A comparative analysis of αA- and αB-crystallin expression during the cell cycle in primary mouse lens epithelial cultures

Fang Bai, Jinghua Xi, Ryuji Higashikubo, Usha P. Andley

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αA- and αB-crystallins are small heat shock proteins and molecular chaperones that prevent non-specific aggregation of denaturing proteins. Previous work in our laboratory has shown that lens epithelial cells derived from αA-/- mice exhibit slower growth, whereas αB-/- lens epithelial cells hyperproliferate at a higher rate in culture [Andley et al., J. Biol. Chem. 273 (1998) 31252; FASEB J. 15 (2001) 221]. Although both have been implicated in apoptosis and cell proliferation, direct analysis of their expression during the cell cycle has not been investigated. This study was undertaken to define the expression levels of αA and αB-crystallins during the cell cycle. Primary lens epithelial cell cultures derived from wild type mice were synchronized by serum starvation, and pulsed with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) at different times after re-stimulation with serum. Dual parameter flow cytometric studies with BrdU and propidium iodide (PI)-labeled cells were performed. Cells entered S phase 14hr after serum re-stimulation. The duration of the S phase was 6hr, and the total cell cycle transit time was between 24-27hr. Enhanced expression of cyclin A, a protein essential for DNA synthesis was used as an additional marker to define the initiation of the S phase. Immunoblotting analysis demonstrated that the expression of αA and αB-crystallin was up to 10-fold higher in cells synchronized in G0 phase than in G1 phase. The levels of the proteins increased three-fold again as the cells entered the S phase and progressed to mitosis, but did not rise to the levels observed in G0 phase. This increase in expression of αA-crystallin resulted in part from enhanced synthesis during the S phase, as shown by an increase in [ 35S]methionine-labeling and immunoprecipitation of the radiolabeled αA-crystallin. The results were further confirmed by flow cytometric analysis using DNA content and αA-crystallin expression. The increase in αB-crystallin in S phase was paralleled by an increase in gene expression as shown by real-time RT-PCR analysis. These results demonstrate for the first time that in lens epithelial cells, αA and αB-crystallin levels are modulated during the cell cycle. Since the absence of αA and αB- crystallin in lens epithelial cells has been associated with disturbance of the tubulin cytoskeleton during mitosis, and with increased cell death or genomic instability, our results indicating that the αA- and αB-crystallin expression increases prior to mitosis are significant. The differential expression of these crystallins in the cell cycle may be important for optimal lens epithelial growth and lens transparency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-805
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental eye research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • cell cycle
  • culture
  • lens epithelial cells
  • synchrony
  • α-crystallin


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