Absence of alpha3 (Cx46) and alpha8 (Cx50) connexins leads to cataracts by affecting lens inner fiber cells

Exp Eye Res. 2006 Sep;83(3):688-96. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2006.03.013. Epub 2006 May 11.


Lens development and transparency have been hypothesized to depend on intercellular gap junction channels, consisting of alpha3 (Cx46) and alpha8 (Cx50) connexin subunits, to transport metabolites, secondary messages and ions between lens cells. To evaluate this hypothesis, we have generated alpha3(-/-) alpha8(-/-) double knockout mice and characterized their lens phenotypes. Without gap junctions between lens fiber cells, alpha3(-/-) alpha8(-/-) lenses displayed severe cataracts resulting from cell swelling and degeneration of inner fibers while normal peripheral fiber cells continued to form throughout life. Neither an increase of degraded crystallins nor an increase of water-insoluble crystallins was found in alpha3(-/-) alpha8(-/-) lenses. However, a substantial reduction of gamma-crystallin proteins, but not alpha- and beta-crystallins, was detected. These results suggest that gap junction communication is important for maintaining lens homeostasis of inner fiber cells and that a loss of gap junctions leads to cataract formation as well as reductions of gamma-crystallin proteins and transcripts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cataract / pathology*
  • Connexins / genetics
  • Connexins / physiology*
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / physiology*
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Gap Junctions / pathology
  • Lens, Crystalline / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Staining and Labeling
  • gamma-Crystallins / genetics
  • gamma-Crystallins / metabolism


  • Connexins
  • Eye Proteins
  • GJA3 protein, human
  • connexin 50
  • gamma-Crystallins