Lipid composition of lens plasma membrane fractions enriched in fiber junctions

J Lipid Res. 1991 Jan;32(1):45-53.


Little is known about the lipid environment of lens fiber junctions, the plasma membrane structure proposed to be responsible for passage of low molecular weight metabolites between adjacent lens fiber cells. Plasma membranes of the ocular lens are especially rich in fiber junctions. The resistance of junctional domains to disruption by detergent or alkali treatment provides the opportunity to isolate a lens plasma membrane fraction enriched in fiber junctions. When examined by electron microscopy, the fiber junction fraction prepared from bovine lenses was enriched with junctional structures by about twofold when compared to total plasma membrane. We compared the protein, phospholipid, and cholesterol concentration of total plasma membrane with fiber junctional membrane from rat and cow lens and from aged normal cataractous human lenses. The principal finding was that junctional membrane contained 20-40% more total lipid than that of the total plasma membrane. This was due to a proportionate increase in the relative content (mg/mg protein) of both phospholipid and cholesterol. Exclusive of one exception (nucleus of bovine lens), the cholesterol/phospholipid molar ratios of the two fractions were similar. In the bovine nucleus, the cholesterol/phospholipid molar ratio was substantially higher in the fiber junctional-enriched membrane fraction than in the total plasma membrane, suggesting a special association of cholesterol with bovine nuclear fiber junctions. The relative lipid compositions of the plasma membrane and fiber junction-enriched fractions from human normal and cataractous lenses were similar, suggesting that human senile cataractogenesis involves changes in the lens plasma membrane more subtle than would be reflected by gross changes in the membrane lipid composition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cataract / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Chickens
  • Cholesterol / analysis*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Eye Proteins / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Junctions / chemistry*
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Lens, Crystalline / chemistry*
  • Lens, Crystalline / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Phospholipids / analysis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Eye Proteins
  • Phospholipids
  • Cholesterol