Lens gene expression analysis reveals downregulation of the anti-apoptotic chaperone alphaA-crystallin during cavefish eye degeneration. Academic Article uri icon


  • We have conducted a survey of the expression patterns of five genes encoding three different classes of major lens proteins during eye degeneration in the blind cavefish Astyanax mexicanus. This species consists of two forms, an eyed surface-dwelling form (surface fish) and a blind cave-dwelling (cavefish) form. Cavefish form an optic primordium with a lens vesicle and optic cup. In contrast to surface fish, however, the cavefish lens does not differentiate fiber cells and undergoes massive apoptosis. The genes encoding the lens intrinsic membrane proteins MIP and MP19 and the divergent betaB1- and gammaM2-crystallins are expressed during cavefish lens development, although their levels are reduced because of a smaller lens, and the spatial distribution of their transcripts is modified because of the lack of differentiated fiber cells. In contrast, the alphaA-crystallin gene, which encodes a heat shock protein-related chaperone with antiapoptotic activity, is substantially downregulated in the developing cavefish lens. The results suggest that suppression of alphaA-crystallin antiapoptotic activity may be involved in cavefish eye degeneration.

publication date

  • December 2007