Pharmacological chaperone for α-crystallin partially restores transparency in cataract models

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Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 674-677
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9145

A visionary approach to transparency

Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss, especially in our ever-increasing elderly population. Cataracts arise when crystallin, a major protein component of the eye lens, begins to aggregate, which causes the lens to become cloudy. Makley et al. explored whether small molecules that reverse this aggregation might have therapeutic potential for treating cataracts, which normally require surgery (see the Perspective by Quinlan). They used a screening method that monitors the effect of ligands on temperature-dependent protein unfolding and identified several compounds that bind and stabilize the soluble form of crystallin. In proof-of-concept studies, one of these compounds improved lens transparency in mice.

Science, this issue p. 674; see also p. 636


Cataracts reduce vision in 50% of individuals over 70 years of age and are a common form of blindness worldwide. Cataracts are caused when damage to the major lens crystallin proteins causes their misfolding and aggregation into insoluble amyloids. Using a thermal stability assay, we identified a class of molecules that bind α-crystallins (cryAA and cryAB) and reversed their aggregation in vitro. The most promising compound improved lens transparency in the R49C cryAA and R120G cryAB mouse models of hereditary cataract. It also partially restored protein solubility in the lenses of aged mice in vivo and in human lenses ex vivo. These findings suggest an approach to treating cataracts by stabilizing α-crystallins.

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