PURPOSE. A distinct subset of genes, so-called “late fiber genes,” is expressed in cells bordering the central, organelle-free zone (OFZ) of the lens. The purpose of this study was to identify additional members of this group. METHODS. Fiber cells were harvested from various layers of the lens by laser micro-dissection and subjected to microarray, in situ hybridization, and Western blot analysis. RESULTS. Expression of Livin, a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family encoded by Birc7, was strongly upregulated in deep cortical fiber cells. The depth-dependent distribution of Livin mRNA was confirmed by quantitative PCR and in situ hybridization. The onset of Livin expression coincided with loss of organelles from primary fiber cells. Livin expression peaked at 1 month but was sustained even in aged lenses. Antibodies raised against mouse Livin labeled multiple bands on immunoblots, reflecting progressive proteolysis of the parent molecule during differentiation. Mice harboring a floxed Birc7 allele were generated and used to conditionally delete Birc7 in lens. Lenses from knockout mice grew normally and retained their transparency, suggesting that Livin does not have an indispensable role in fiber cell differentiation. CONCLUSIONS. Birc7 is a late fiber gene of the mouse lens. In tumor cells, Livin acts as an antiapoptotic protein, but its function in the lens is enigmatic. Livin is a RING domain protein with putative E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. Its expression in cells bordering the OFZ is consistent with a role in organelle degradation, a process in which the ubiquitin proteasome pathway has been implicated previously.
- Fiber cell differentiation
- Organelle degradation