The lens epithelium: Focus on the expression and function of the α-crystallin chaperones

Usha P. Andley

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Lens epithelial cells are the parental cells responsible for growth and development of the transparent ocular lens. Many elegant investigations into their biology have focused on the factors that initiate and regulate lens epithelial cell differentiation. Because they serve key transport and cell maintenance functions throughout life, and are the primary source of metabolic activity in the lens, mechanisms to maintain lens epithelial cell integrity and survival are critical for lens transparency. The molecular chaperones α-crystallins are abundant proteins synthesized in the differentiated lens fiber cell cytoplasm. However, their expression in lens epithelial cells has only been appreciated very recently. Besides their important roles in the refractive and light focusing properties of the lens, α-crystallins have been implicated in a number of non-refractive pathways including those involving stress response, apoptosis and cell survival. The most convincing evidence for their importance in the lens epithelium has been shown by studies on the properties of lens epithelial cells from αA and αB-crystallin gene knockout mice. Novel combination of genetics, cell and molecular biology should lead to a greater understanding of how lens epithelial cells proliferate, differentiate and survive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Cataract
  • Chaperone
  • Crystallin
  • Epithelium
  • Lens
  • Survival


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