Mechanism of a hereditary cataract phenotype. Mutations in alphaA-crystallin activate substrate binding.
- PMID: 16531622[PubMed].
We present a novel hypothesis for the molecular mechanism of autosomal dominant cataract linked to two mutations in the alphaA-crystallin gene of the ocular lens. AlphaA-crystallin is a molecular chaperone that plays a critical role in the suppression of protein aggregation and hence in the long term maintenance of lens optical properties. Using a steady state binding assay in which the chaperone-substrate complex is directly detected, we demonstrate that the mutations result in a substantial increase in the level of binding to non-native states of the model substrate T4 lysozyme. The structural basis of the enhanced binding is investigated through equivalent substitutions in the homologous heat shock protein 27. The mutations shift the oligomeric equilibrium toward a dissociated multimeric form previously shown to be the binding-competent state. In the context of a recent thermodynamic model of chaperone function that proposes the coupling of small heat shock protein activation to the substrate folding equilibrium (Shashidharamurthy, R., Koteiche, H. A., Dong, J., and McHaourab, H. S. (2005) J. Biol. Chem. 280, 5281-5289), the enhanced binding by the alphaA-crystallin mutants is predicted to shift the substrate folding equilibrium toward non-native intermediates, i.e. the mutants promote substrate unfolding. Given the high concentration of alphaA-crystallin in the lens, the molecular basis of pathogenesis implied by our results is a gain of function that leads to the binding of undamaged proteins and subsequent precipitation of the saturated alpha-crystallin complexes in the developing lens of affected individuals.