A New Focus on RNA in the Lens

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Science  25 Mar 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6024, pp. 1523-1524
DOI: 10.1126/science.1204205

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High-resolution vision requires the focus of light onto cells that translate this information into a form that can be understood by the brain. Land vertebrates, including humans, accomplish the task of light refraction through the use of a curved transparent window to the environment, the cornea, whereas further focus is accomplished by a transparent but cellular tissue internal to the eye, the lens (1). The lens must have a very high refractive index to be functional in the aqueous environment of the eye while also retaining its transparency for decades (2). Most known human mutations leading to the congenital cloudiness of the lens, known as cataract, occur in genes that encode structural proteins of the lens. Mutations in genes encoding transcription factors (such as cMaf, Hsf4, and Pitx3) that regulate the expression of these structural genes account for another subset of mutations causing human congenital cataracts (3). On page 1571 of this issue, Lachke et al. (4) propose that RNA-containing granules could regulate both the subcellular localization and processing of lens mRNAs that are important for lens transparency. This refutes the long-standing dogma that lens gene expression is largely controlled at the level of transcription (5).