Neoplastic tumors of the ocular lens of vertebrates do not naturally occur. Transgenic mice carrying a hybrid gene comprising the murine alpha A-crystallin promoter (-366 to +46) fused to the coding sequence of the SV40 T antigens developed lens tumors, which obliterated the eye cavity and even invaded neighboring tissue, thus establishing that the lens is not refractive to oncogenesis. Large-T antigen was detected early in lens development; it elicited morphological changes and specifically interfered with differentiation of lens fiber cells. Both alpha- and beta-crystallins persisted in many of the lens tumor cells, while gamma-crystallin was selectively reduced. Accessibility, characteristic morphology, and defined protein markers make this transparent epithelial eye tissue a potentially useful system for testing tumorigenicity of oncogenes and for studying malignant transformation from its inception until death of the animal.

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