Lens protein expression in mammals: taxon-specificity and the recruitment of crystallins

J Mol Evol. 1991 Mar;32(3):262-9. doi: 10.1007/BF02342749.


Vertebrate lenses show remarkably taxon-specific patterns of protein composition, most obviously in the recruitment of enzymes as major crystallins. Phylogenetic relationships are particularly apparent in mammals. Here we describe eta-crystallin, which is probably identical to cytosolic aldehyde dehydrogenase, lens-specifically expressed at high abundance in the elephant shrews, primitive eutherians of the family Macroscelidae, and mu-crystallin, a novel lens protein expressed in some marsupials. We have also observed that enzymes that have been recruited as crystallins in some species are also moderately abundant in the lenses of other species. This hints that the origins of enzyme-crystallins may lie in a pool of enzymes widely expressed in lenses at fairly high levels, perhaps because they have important developmental or functional roles in the tissue.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / chemistry*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Crystallins / chemistry*
  • Densitometry
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Mammals / metabolism*
  • Marsupialia / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Shrews / metabolism


  • Crystallins
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase