Purpose: The zonule of Zinn (ciliary zonule) is a system of fibers that centers the crystalline lens on the optical axis of the eye. Mutations in zonule components underlie syndromic conditions associated with a broad range of ocular pathologies, including microspherophakia and ectopia lentis. Here, we used HPLC-mass spectrometry to determine the molecular composition of the zonule.
Methods: Tryptic digests of human and bovine zonular samples were analyzed by HPLC-mass spectrometry. The distribution of selected components was confirmed by immunofluorescence confocal microscopy. In bovine samples, the composition of the equatorial zonule was compared to that of the hyaloid zonule and vitreous humor.
Results: The 52 proteins common to the zonules of both species accounted for >95% of the zonular protein. Glycoproteins constituted the main structural components, with two proteins, FBN1 and LTBP2, constituting 70%-80% of the protein. Other abundant components were MFAP2, EMILIN-1, and ADAMTSL-6. Lysyl oxidase-like 1, a crosslinking enzyme implicated in collagen and elastin biogenesis, was detected at significant levels. The equatorial and hyaloid zonular samples were compositionally similar to each other, although the hyaloid sample was relatively enriched in the proteoglycan opticin and the fibrillar collagens COL2A1, COL11A1, COL5A2, and COL5A3.
Conclusions: The zonular proteome was surprisingly complex. In addition to structural components, it contained signaling proteins, protease inhibitors, and crosslinking enzymes. The equatorial and hyaloid zonules were similar in composition, but the latter may form part of a composite structure, the hyaloid membrane, that stabilizes the vitreous face.