Author(s): Korlimbinis A, Truscott RJ
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Abstract Age-related nuclear (ARN) cataract is a major cause of world blindness. With the onset of ARN cataract, the normally transparent and colorless lens becomes opaque and can take on colors ranging from orange, brown, and even black. The molecular basis for this remarkable transformation is unknown. ARN cataract is also characterized by extensive oxidation, insolubilization, and cross-linking of polypeptides, particularly in the nucleus of the lens. It has been postulated that 3-hydroxykynurenine (3OHKyn) may be involved in these changes. This endogenous tryptophan metabolite is readily oxidized and is involved in the tanning of moth cocoons and the formation of pigments in the eyes of butterflies. 3OHKyn is a component of our primate-specific UV-filter pathway, and the brownish hue of ARN cataract lenses is also unique to humans. Because numerous colored compounds can be produced by autoxidation of 3OHKyn, this process could provide an explanation for the variety of lens colors and other changes seen in ARN cataract. For such a theory to be tenable, it needs to be demonstrated that 3OHKyn is bound to proteins in the human lens. Here, we show that all normal lenses older than 50 have 3OHKyn covalently attached to the nuclear proteins, most likely via cysteine residues. If indeed 3OHKyn is implicated in ARN cataract, a reduction in the levels that are bound in cataract, compared to normal lenses, would be expected. In agreement with this hypothesis, no bound 3OHKyn could be detected in proteins isolated from ARN cataract lenses.
This article was published in Biochemistry
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology